Roland Schneuwly bought pyjamas at a Calgary shopping centre on Boxing Day, then watched his son play in the world junior hockey championships.
His new sleepwear represents part of the reason Alberta is relishing its role as the tournament’s host. The world juniors are expected to inject $80-million into the provincial economy, with most of the cash flowing into Calgary.
Mr. Schneuwly and his wife travelled from Switzerland to watch 19-year-old Cédric make his world junior debut at the city’s Saddledome. The couple expects to spend about $5,000 on the 10-day trip, including expenses such as flights, airfare, hotels, meals, and sundries – such as the pyjamas that will replace the pair left at home – that come with attending the tournament as out-of-towners.
“It is expensive,” Mr. Schneuwly said, wearing his country’s flag like a cape during the second intermission of the Russia-Switzerland game, which the Russians eventually won, 3-0. “We came with friends – they have a son who plays, too.”
Thousands of tourists, along with local fans, will join the Schneuwlys to watch teams of teenagers battle for gold. “It has a big economic impact … specifically tourism,” said Randy Williams, Tourism Calgary’s chief executive officer.
The $80-million prediction could balloon, depending on how well Canada plays. The forecast, Mr. Williams added, does not account for the home team’s success or failure.
Team Canada has played in the past 10 gold medal games.
When making their bids, cities often boast about the potential economic benefits of hosting major sporting events to try to convince locals that any inconveniences created by an influx of tourists will be worth it. Unlike the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, or Toronto hosting the coming Pan Am Games, the world junior championships comes largely without complaint.
Neither the cities nor the province had to spend millions building infrastructure, although on the flip side, the tournament does not create a labour boom or leave behind shiny new sporting facilities.
Edmonton and Calgary are sharing the event, although Calgary has dibs on the lucrative medal round, which is why more money will flow there. Team Canada plays at Edmonton’s Rexall Place in the round-robin portion.
It’s the first time the under-20 tournament has been split between two cities with NHL arenas.
About 450,000 tickets have been sold for the tournament’s 31 games, with an average price of $50, Mr. Williams said. Fans quickly snapped them all up. Seat sales would be far lower if a smaller centre played host with a smaller arena, such as Red Deer – which held the tournament in 1995.
Tourism Calgary estimates visitors will fill between 10,000 and 20,000 extra hotel rooms during the tournament’s 11 days, running from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. The holidays are a slow time for hotels, which is why the world juniors delivers an extra economic jolt.
The organization did not forecast how many tourists it expects to draw from outside the host cities, the province, or Canada. A tally will come after the tournament ends, Mr. Williams said.
The $80-million estimate does not include what tourists pay for flights, Mr. Williams said. Instead, the cost of tickets, souvenirs, restaurant bills and, of course, pitchers of beer, add to the total.
“Obviously, if there’s a lot of excitement created through Canada, the further they go in the tournament, the more the bars will be busy and more souvenirs will be sold,” Mr. Williams said.
Wayne Leong owns Calgary’s Melrose Cafe & Bar, where about 350 patrons came on Boxing Day to watch Team Canada open the tournament against Finland. On a typical Boxing Day afternoon, about 50 to 75 folks show up, he said. Sales could double over the course of the tournament. The bar has a capacity of 800.
Melrose, located on 17th Avenue, the city’s so-called “Red Mile,” was the heart of the party during the Calgary Flames’ 2004 playoff run. “Knock on wood, if Team Canada hits the gold medal game, it is going to translate into a really phenomenal [stretch]for us,” Mr. Leong said.
“I think it could probably compete, or maybe even be bigger, [than 2004]because we have holidays right now … We’re gearing up to be just as busy, if not more, than 2004.”
Roland Schneuwly, who once played semi-pro hockey in Switzerland, will have left Canada before the final. He is headed back to Europe Jan. 3.
“We’ll see the gold medal on TV,” he said.