As many of you know, the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships (WJC) are under way in Buffalo, New York. The United States is 2-0, and so is Canada. In fact, Canada beat poor Norway 10-1 last night.
The city of Buffalo, which is near the Canada-US border, isn't exactly a vacation destination, however. One of the American players, Emerson Etem, made a rather disparaging comment about it on Twitter the other day. He's since retracted that. Of course.
Which brought up a discussion among the SB Nation hockey writers. Other than the proximity to the Canadian border, why have the tournament in Buffalo? A fellow writer of mine from Raw Charge, John Fontana, brought up a good point. Why not have the tournament in a non-traditional market, the next time the US can bid on hosting it again?
This isn't about bringing hockey to the Sun Belt. For better or for worse, it's already there - and probably for good. No, this is about putting a winter hockey tournament in a warm climate.
I mean, seriously. Think about it. If you were going to travel to watch hockey, anyways, would you rather go to LA or to Toronto for New Year's?
There's a practice that many event planners follow when putting together business conferences, and that's to put them in places that people want to go to. Which is why Orlando, Florida, is a common place for business conferences. Not only is it in sunny Florida, but also Seaworld and Disney for the family to hang out at while you go to the conference. San Diego, California, is also a popular destination for business conferences, again, for its family friendliness.
Many sports tournament organizers seem to follow that sort of thinking as well. For a few years, there was an NCAA men's ice hockey holiday tournament in Tampa that was hosted by the University of Notre Dame. The NCAA also has holiday basketball tournaments in Hawai'I as well and Puerto Rico. Not all of them are in warm places that people would rather be in the middle of winter - for instance, there's a holiday basketball tournament that's in Alaska - but most are. Including the majority of college football bowl games.
So instead of putting the WJC tournament near or in Canada when it's being hosted in North America, why not put it in a vacation destination where German, Swedish, Finnish, and everyone else can fly to and have a bit of holiday time, too? It makes sense to me, anyways.
This isn't about making it into a convenient place for the locals to drive to, and thus having an instant crowd. Only in Canada will you get more than 10,000 fans at a game - and probably only for the Canadian team and some of the medal games. This is about making the tournament into a vacation destination that families and fans can enjoy along with the hockey. Many places have two local facilities that seat 5,000 or more which would work, and that's all that's really necessary.
It's something to think about and discuss, anyways.