By Tina Comeau
Anyone planning on purchasing tickets for the World Junior A Challenge being held in Yarmouth Nov. 5-11 would be advised to remove the word procrastination from their vocabulary.
If organizers of the international hockey event have any advice to people it’s this: buy your tickets now. If you wait until later, they caution, you’ll likely be disappointed.
“There are only around 250 ticket packages left, so there’s not a lot of tickets left,” Riley Wiwchar, manager of marketing and events at Hockey Canada said during a visit to Yarmouth last week. “They’re going to go quickly as summer turns into fall and hockey gets started and the Mariners start their training camp. I’d encourage anyone looking or considering to buy now.”
People can purchase tickets on the Hockey Canada website by following the links to the World Junior A Challenge info.
Wiwchar and Derek Amalfa, manager of ticketing services for Hockey Canada, were in Yarmouth last week visiting with local organizers of the event.
“We’re at the stage now where kind of all of the plans are in place and it’s just finalizing the details. We’re confirming accommodations and working on sponsorship,” said Wiwchar.
Six teams will compete at the World Junior A Challenge, this includes two teams from Canada – an east and west team – and also teams from the United States, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
Aside from spectators, the event also draws a large number of NHL scouts. At last year’s tournament held in Langley, B.C. there were 120 NHL scouts present. Wayne Hamilton, part of the local organizing committee, says 21 NHL teams have booked accommodations for their scouts who will attend the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth.
Another aspect of the preparations is a recruitment drive for volunteers. Hamilton says they are also looking to incorporate young people into the event.
“We have team ambassadors, or team hosts, and Hockey Canada would like a mature older person as a team host, but with each one they’d like a junior host too, which preferably is someone in the minor hockey system,” says Hamilton, who says they’ve been discussing this with the Yarmouth County Minor Hockey Association.
Seeing minor hockey players and schools being involved in and benefitting from the event is also something organizers are hoping to achieve.
Yarmouth heads into this hockey event after some other high-profile hockey experiences over the past year. Twice the Yarmouth Junior A Mariners rebounded from 3-1 series deficits in the league playoffs – once to win the Bent Division championship and the other time to push the series to the third period of overtime in the Kent Cup Final with Woodstock. The Slammers won the cup, but the Mariners didn't make it easy for them to.
In March, Yarmouth was one of five finalists in the Kraft Hockeyville competition. Wiwchar says they hope to see the local hockey spirit from earlier in the year continue on into the world challenge.
“Selfishly it's worked out well for us because you build that community momentum,” says Wiwchar. “I think I voted 400 times for you during Hockeyville,” he adds, laughing.
Meanwhile, with less than three months to go before the international hockey event, planning and preparations are continuing. And if organizers are excited for the event, you just imagine what it will feel like for the junior A hockey players who get selected to compete for their countries, they say.
“This is big. Can you imagine some kid in the Czech Republic right now hoping for the chance to come over to play hockey in Canada?” says Hamilton.
And the excitement is not just for players beyond Canada, says Amalfa.
“There are kids in Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and elsewhere, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the East Coast and represent your country in an international competition. It’s a big event for these kids,” he says.