Although not all of the games were sold out, organizers of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are delighted with the attendance figures. The DEB plans to use the profit earned to invest in its youth program.With a total of 17,363 spectators, Sunday evening’s gold-medal game between Sweden, the eventual winners, and Canada,the defending champions was well over 1,000 tickets short of a sellout, but it was still a good crowd, particularly with the seats in the rafters going for 89 euros ($99).
Still organizers are delighted with the overall ticket sales for the 2017 world championship, which was split between the German city of Cologne and the French capital, Paris. Cologne drew the lion’s share of spectators, with a total attendance of around 463,000 for the 34 games played in Germany. Paris drew 224,000 for the games played there.
Overall the 685,000 spectators who turned out to the 81st world hockey championship made it the second-best attended of all time, after the one played in the Czech Republic in 2015.
“We were always confident that we would meet our advance target of 600,000 fans, but we were positively surprised by how many people bought tickets here,” Henner Ziegfeld, the general secretary of the organizing committee told reporters in Cologne. “There were so many Russians, who filled the arena, Germany had lots of sell-out crowds as the host nation, and there were also good numbers from Sweden, Slovakia, Latvia and even Denmark.”
As Franz Reindl, president of the German hockey association (DEB) and the world championship organizing committee pointed out at the closing press conference, attendance was helped by the good product on the ice.
“We’ve had 400 players, including 92 from the NHL,” Reindl said. “They’ve shown us some great hockey on the ice. Having perfect players playing a wonderful game with such high intensity creates interest and that’s why the spectators are coming.”
In fact the tournament certainly was helped by the fact that teams like the United States, who in the past few years had often sent teams largely made up of AHL and college players, iced a high-caliber mainly NHL squad this time. The Swedes also sent a particularly strong roster to Cologne.
Longer-term boost for the sport?
However, for countries like Germany and France, where hockey is a marginal sport, the success of hosting a world championship is also judged by what effect it has in the development of the game in the longer term. The bump that German hockey officials had hoped for after the country hosted the 2010 tournament, never materialized. In fact, after Germany made it all the way to the semifinals under then-coach Uwe Krupp in 2010, things quickly went south for the national team.
DEB President Franz Reindl is determined to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Although the numbers aren’t final yet, the DEB has earned an estimated two million euros in profit from the tournament. This may be small change to any Bundesliga football club, but it is a significant sum for the DEB, and Reindl has pledged that unlike after previous world championships that Germany has hosted, this time the bulk of those funds will go into the development of youth hockey in this country.
Investing in the future
“The most important thing is that we use it to invest in the future,” Reindl said. “Whether we use it over three years, five or eight, we’ll just have to see.”
This will be music to the ears of national team coach Marco Sturm, who after Germany were knocked out of the tournament by Canada in the quarterfinals, criticized both the level of the top domestic league, the DEL, and the country’s youth program.
“We just have to keep working… We simply all have to do a better job,” said the 38-year-old former NHL player, who has also stressed that in the future, Germany must no longer be satisfied with just making it to the quarterfinals.
Should Reindl and the DEB invest the couple of million euros from this world championship wisely, this should have a significant positive impact on German hockey’s progress for many years to come.