The Hockey Canada scandal and August time slot have cast a cloud over the World Junior tournament in Edmonton

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In Canada, the World Junior Championship tournament typically generates massive profits that trickle down to the grassroots level of hockey.

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In 2012, for example, when matches were played from late December to early January at the Saddledome in Calgary and Rexall Place in Edmonton, it generated a surplus of about $22 million. The largest pieces of this remarkable pie were collected by Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation, but Alberta’s minor hockey associations also benefited.

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The 2022 edition of the annual event, however, looks less like a potential moneymaker and more like the proverbial punchbowl. Postponed from its usual premium slot on the sports calendar after the COVID-19 outbreak forced teams from Russia, the United States and the Czech Republic to forfeit opening-round games, it was Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place. , is scheduled in Edmonton’s glittering downtown Puck Palace.

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But it seems that winter boys don’t have the same draw in the dog days of summer.

Moreover, the tournament will go ahead without powerhouse Russia, whose team was expelled by the IIHF following the country’s military invasion of Ukraine. Latvia joins Canada, Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in Group A, while Group B includes the United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

Unfortunately time and the absence of a world hockey powerhouse are just two of the tournament’s nagging issues, and neither occupies the top spot.

On Wednesday, more than two weeks before the puck drop, Hockey Canada officials will testify for the second time before a parliamentary committee into the organization’s handling, or perhaps mishandling, of allegations of group sexual abuse involving several unidentified members of the 2018 World Junior Team. Investigate the action properly. In May, Hockey Canada was sued for $3.55 million by a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight junior-age players in London, Ont. A hotel room after the Hockey Canada gala and golf event in June 2018. Hockey Canada closed its external investigation into the incident without first determining what happened or who was involved, and a London police investigation resulted in no charges being laid. Similar gang sexual assault allegations have recently been made against unidentified members of the 2003 Canadian World Junior Team. Halifax Police are investigating the alleged incident.

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The 2018 scandal prompted a serious backlash from Hockey Canada’s all-star lineup of sponsors. Canadian Tire, Telus, Scotiabank, Tim Hortons and Imperial Oil among them. Corporations have halted sponsorship and marketing activations for the 2022 World Junior Tournament and some have redirected their investments to Hockey Canada programming for women’s teams and to both equity and grassroots initiatives. Scotiabank also donated to a charity that helps women who are victims of gender-based violence.

Hockey Canada has since committed to a governance review overseen by a third party, and has again engaged the firm of Heinen Hutchison to conduct a second investigation into the 2018 incident, this time with the alleged victim’s apparent cooperation. The organization has also announced a so-called “code of silence” and an action plan to “end toxic behavior in and around Canadian sport.” According to Hockey Canada, the action plan includes commitments in the areas of “accountability, governance, independent sport safety audits, and standards, education and training.”

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Whether related to the scandal or the postponement, it looks like next month will have serious ramifications for the tournament stakeholders at the gate. The Ticketmaster website shows the largest number of seats available in the lower bowl for most games that do not include Team Canada. It is believed that the upper bowl will not be opened for these games, although the decision is apparently not finalised. Tickets for all Canadian sports are in high demand, and tickets for these matches are selling in the upper bowl.

But it’s hard to imagine attendance reaching the heights of previous Canadian tournaments — Ottawa, for example, drew 450,000-plus in 2009 — largely due to a lack of marketing by the IIHF and Hockey Canada. Two weeks later, the tournament has no visible presence in the city.

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Hockey Canada and IIHF officials did not respond to Postmedia requests for an interview regarding the tournament. Oilers Entertainment Group, which is serving as the tournament’s venue partner, released a statement to Postmedia on Tuesday.

“We are working diligently to host 28 sports, 220 athletes and more than 120 representatives from 10 competing nations in Edmonton this August as a tournament venue,” OEG said. “Due to the Omicron outbreak in December, the International Ice Hockey Federation had to cancel the tournament and move it to a summer tournament to give players a chance to compete for their countries. “Hosting certainly presents unique challenges, but also creates opportunities to do things differently and use outdoor spaces. We will continue to work with the IIHF to prepare for the arrival of athletes next week.”

dbarnes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

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