From left to right: Franz Reindl, Rene Fasel, Henner Ziegfeld. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Organizers hail high attendances in both venues
Crowds at this year's championship are set to come close to a new record, leaving organizers thrilled at the success of the event in Cologne and Paris.
With four games still to play, the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship is set to attract the second-highest combined attendance in the tournament’s history.
Up to the end of the quarter-finals, 625,000 fans came to 60 games in Cologne and Paris. The French capital welcomed 224,000 spectators while Cologne has seen 401,000 people come to the LANXESS arena, with a projected total of 455,000 by the time the gold medals are handed out on Sunday evening.
For Henner Ziegfeld, General Secretary of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Organizing Committee, the numbers represent a big success in both venues.
"Whenever you are awarded a World Championship, you're looking to give the game a push in your country or countries," he said. "This year, I think we really achieved it in both countries.
“In Paris at first there was a feeling that it was going a bit slow, but we finished with an average of 7,500 spectators per game. That’s very good for a secondary venue. In total we were just 10,000 short of what we had in Ostrava in 2015. If you think that the Czech Republic is a great, great hockey nation where hockey is the number-one sport, you can see that this is a great achievement by our French colleagues.”
Sales in Cologne were no less impressive, with the venue set to outstrip last year’s attendance of 417,000 on its own.
“We were completely overwhelmed with what we experienced,” Ziegfeld added. “We had 13,400 per game and if we maintain that average we should have 678,000 which would only be surpassed by 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. 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. The number of tickets we could sell during the event was much, much higher than we expected.”
Franz Reindl, President of the Organizing Committee, felt that the quality of hockey on display played a big role in driving the high attendances.
“We’ve had 400 players, including 92 from the NHL,” he 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.”
Reindl also had a surprising explanation for one of the minor glitches that affected the tournament – problems with the ice during two games involving Slovakia.
“It was simply a player using a certain kind of body oil that created a problem with the ice,” he said. “It was simply a mistake, nobody was to blame. Now we know what’s going on.”
Aside from talk of the current tournament, IIHF President Rene Fasel was invited to share the latest news on efforts to bring NHL players to next year’s Olympics. Responding to a query about reported talks between the NHL and the IOC, he said. “We’ve had discussions with Billy Daly, and with Sandra Monteiro from the NHL Players’ Association. The door is still open and there is a still a chance. The participating federations have no wish to impose a deadline and there is still hope.”