Over the last decade Europe has hosted the U20 only three times. The last time was in the Czech Republic in 2008.
Over this time it became clearer and clearer how much more successful the event was when it was played in Canada or accessible to Canadian fans. Attendance, television ratings, revenue all shot through the roof when Canada hosted the event. The IIHF even went so far as to guarantee Canada a hosting every three years, and under that mandate the event grew even more to the point it was promised a U20 every two years. As a result, Canada will host in 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021 under the current arrangements.
But happy as he was with this setup, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson knew it was important the U20 return to Europe – and the necessity for it to be embraced by European fans. He hoped that after a few years in North America, where European players and fans could watch in awe at 19,000 Canadians cheering on their home team – and near sellouts attend games played by the lower-ranked teams – that Europeans would come to appreciate the quality of hockey and the importance of the event.
If Ufa 2013 is any indication, Europe seems ready to embrace the U20 as never before. This year is arguably the most successful U20 ever held in Europe and points to a maturation of the event we haven’t seen before here. There are many reasons for this success.
First and foremost, organizers have chosen a host city to match their expectations in a realistic way. This was key to USA Hockey’s successful hosting of the Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. Aim high – but be realistic.
The rest... just like Maryanne.