SBJ/Dec. 6-12, 2010/This Week's Issue

Sabres say juniors tournament is selling well


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HSBC Arena will host games for the two-week
IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.

The Buffalo Sabres could earn between $10 million and $12 million in ticket revenue from the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. The tournament, which features 31 games between the world’s 10 best junior national teams, runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

As of last week, the club had sold 11,800 of the 12,000 all-session ticket packages to HSBC Arena, which are available for $493, $833 and $1,250. The club has sold another 1,000 passes for the 1,800-seat Dwyer Arena, which will also host games. The club opened single-day ticket sales to season-ticket holders on Nov. 22 and sold 774 in a day and a half. The club also is selling single-, double- and triple-game packages.

According to team officials, 65 percent of ticket sales have come from Canadian buyers.

“This tournament is tantamount to the Final Four in basketball for Canadians, so for us being this close to Canada is huge,” said Dan DiPofi, Sabres COO and minority owner. “I don’t think many NHL cities can appreciate the breadth of this tournament, but we can.”

Last year, the tournament generated international buzz after the United States beat Canada 6-5 in a dramatic overtime game in Saskatoon, Canada.

DiPofi said he is confident the club will surpass its break-even number for the entire event, which is 75 percent capacity of the 18,690-seat HSBC Arena. He declined to give any estimated net profit from the event.

USA Hockey controls broadcast rights for the event, and is in the final year of a three-year partnership for U.S. rights with the NHL Network, which will carry the Jan. 5 championship game, as well as all American games and a select number of other games. TSN will carry the games in Canada, and will stream the tournament live. The website Fasthockey.com will provide online streaming to American viewers.

Buffalo beat out Minneapolis-St. Paul and Grand Forks, N.D., to host the 2010-11 event, which the IIHF awarded to the United States in 2007. Buffalo’s bid proposal for the tournament included an undisclosed ticket revenue share and a guaranteed $4 million payment from owner Thomas Golisano.

“There was no question the [$4 million] was a factor in the evaluation,” said Dave Fischer, a member of the bid evaluation team for USA Hockey. “We’re not yet comfortable with our hockey turnout to go to Dallas or some city in the South that can’t support a two-week tournament.”

The tournament has produced impressive revenue numbers for previous hosts. The 2008-09 tournament, which was hosted by the Ottawa Senators, sold 470,000 tickets and generated $14.5 million for Hockey Canada, $12.5 million of which came in a guaranteed payment from the Senators and the rest from shared ticket revenue. Senators President Cyril Leeder declined to disclose how much the team made from the tournament but said the tournament requires significant operations cost — specifically in providing hospitality and transportation for 10 teams in two weeks. Despite the cost, Leeder said, the tournament was a financial success.

“It’s like hosting a major concert every day for 10 days,” Leeder said. “From an attendance point of view, it’s the biggest single-sport event you can host in Canada.”

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