Canada plays in front of another low-attended crowd at the world juniors

It was crickets at KeyBank Arena in Buffalo as Canada opened against Finland at the world juniors. (Canadian Press)
It was crickets at KeyBank Arena in Buffalo as Canada opened against Finland at the world juniors. (Canadian Press)

Along with memorable goals, huge saves, championship celebrations and faces soaked with tears, there’s another sight becoming all-too-common at the World Junior Hockey Championship: empty seats.

There were rows and large chunks of unused seats at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, the arena appearing to fill up to just 40-50 percent capacity for Canada’s victory against Finland on Tuesday afternoon.

Attendance has been an issue when the tournament in played outside of Canada or the northern U.S. in previous years, but tickets for Canada’s games when played on or near home soil have, historically, been difficult to come by.

So, just a two hour drive from Toronto and less than an hour from the border, a strong hockey market like Buffalo was the last place one would expect dwindling attendance numbers in a contest between two of the tournament favourites in Canada and Finland.

But those empty seats did, however, match the trend that has developed the past couple tournaments held in Southern Ontario and Quebec.

The 2015 event in Montreal and Toronto boasted sub-par attendance across the board, prompting Hockey Canada to proclaim that that it would be lowering ticket prices and re-evaluating packages ahead of the 2017 tournament in the same two cities. Whatever the organizers attempted had little effect, as last year’s tournament was plagued by the same attendance issues it was two years earlier. Hockey Canada once again said it’s re-assessing pricing and promotion ahead of the 2019 tourney in Vancouver and Victoria.

Organizers had high hopes that an event held in a border city like Buffalo would result in a much larger amount of fans making their way through the gates, but so far on Day 1 that’s been anything but the case.

To add to the concern, there are still hundreds of tickets available for the first-ever outdoor game at the junior hockey showcase between the U.S. and Canada on Dec. 29 at New Era Field.

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