WJC 2011: Make it happen, Buffalo
It’s been the site of early round games of the NCAA Basketball tournament on multiple occasions. There are minor hockey tournaments held in the area every year.
Back in 2004, the Queen City played host to the NCAA Frozen Four. Buffalo fans were able to catch a glimpse of Thomas Vanek before he became the all-star player he is.
Every time Buffalo came out with glowing reviews and an economic shot-in-the-arm. That’s never bad for a city that has image problems, both from outsiders and the residents.
There’s another opportunity out there that can do nothing but help Buffalo. In 2007, the IIHF awarded the United States the opportunity to host a few upcoming tournaments, including the 2011 U20 World Championships, commonly known as the World Juniors. Now, USA Hockey is accepting bids from potential host cities.
USA Hockey expects to announce the host for the 2011 IIHF World Under-20 Championship in late December. Bid proposals for the event are due to the USA Hockey national office by August 1.
This is too good an opportunity to pass up.
The amount of economic help this would provide the region would be enormous. International media, players, fans, families… all coming to Buffalo for the tournament (and naturally, making a stop to Niagara Falls, I’m sure). Downtown restaurants and bars would be overflowing. Hotels would be packed (That “bed tax” would be looking pretty good, huh?). The amount of Canadians coming across the border for this tournament, which is of March Madness proportions up north, would be exponential of the large number that have been coming since the drop in the American dollar.
There is competition here. Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, ND (home of the Fighting Sioux, and host of the 2005 World Juniors) has already announced that they will bid. Other cities that have been rumored include Columbus, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Boston, with both being home to more than one large hockey arena.
During coverage of the 2008 World Juniors, TSN’s Gord Miller apparently stated that Buffalo/Rochester was the favorite at the time to host, so I’m hoping that means the wheels were already in motion. While I’ll be the first to say Bucky Gleason is a joke when it comes to being a reporter, he did mention it on the Sabres Edge blog in January.
Some interesting news concerning Western New York came out of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association meeting this morning. It looks like Buffalo could be among the leading candidates to host the 2011 World Junior Championships, which were awarded to the United States.
USA Hockey chief Dave Ogrean spoke at the meeting and acknowledged Buffalo is on the radar for the WJC. A final decision isn’t going to be made for another 18 months or so after they review all the proposals. There was talk about it last year, but things seemed to quiet down.
It really does make a lot of sense. HSBC Arena is a world-class hockey facility. Blue Cross Arena can hold games as well. The fact that the Sabres and Amerks broke up shouldn’t hinder this, considering the BCA is not run by the same people that run the Americans. Even if Rochester won’t work, Tullio Arena in Erie, PA could always be used. There are plenty of options. Hell, they could hold the Gold Medal game at the Ralph if they really wanted to get frisky.
There shouldn’t be any question that there would be enough support. Buffalo would have no problem selling out the Arena for most of these games, especially the USA and Canada games. The support hockey gets in this area is near legendary after the Winter Classic. Now, with Buffalo-bred boys like Patrick Kane lighting it up (he was named to the All-Tournament Team playing for USA in 2007, finishing fourth in scoring) there would be massive interest if a hometown boy was getting a chance to shine on the world stage… in his own backyard. It’s a real possibility.
This is a great chance to get Buffalo some more good press, not just in North America, but around the world. Opportunities like this can’t be passed up when the city is in the state that it is in.
Buffalo Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn is just the kind of guy that needs to step up and get this done. HSBC Arena would be the primary tenant, so he has some pull. As someone overseeing the waterfront development, he can use the surrounding area to his advantage.
So, please, Mr. Quinn. Let Darcy worry about the Sabres. Go do something to help the city.
It’ll be worth it.