Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Moorhead Sports Center made a big cut in their bid to host the 2011 World Juniors. Read about that here.
I couldn’t nail down the other two finalists, but I believe them to be the Twin Cities and Buffalo. The announcement should come sometime Thursday morning.
None of the cities are going to go into a lot of detail about their bids at this point, as there’s sure to be fierce competition between the three possible sites. They don’t want the other sites to know their proposals.
But the way I see it, without knowing the bids, USA Hockey will have to decide whether to take a risk in order to spread tournaments around the country.
Grand Forks is a sure thing. The tournament in 2005 was a huge success and REA officials believe it will be even better in 2011. They were confident in their bid, saying that it had significant financial guarantees for USA Hockey.
Because REA has hosted the tournament and went through the process once, it will have a chance to perfect things. I believe that if USA Hockey wants to maximize profits, it will go to Grand Forks.
You know people are going to come out. You know Winnipeggers are going to come down. And having the secondary site in Moorhead will bring in more people than TRF did in 2005, simply because of the size of the Fargo-Moorhead metro area.
But USA Hockey may want to spread out its tournaments. The last three IIHF tournaments USA Hockey has received are the 2005 World Juniors, 2009 Under-18 and the 2011 World Juniors. It awarded the 2009 Under-18s to Fargo. So is it going to award three straight to North Dakota/Minnesota border towns?
This is where Buffalo and the Twin Cities come in (if they indeed are the other two finalists). They present an opportunity to spread things around and maybe try to create interest in other parts of the country.
The problem: Both are pro towns. Come December, the Twin Cities will be buzzing about the Vikings, as always. It still has the Wild and to a lesser extent, the Timberwolves (maybe they’ll be halfway decent by 2011?). Buffalo will still have the Bills and the Sabres in season.
Will pro towns come out for a junior tournament? In the past, they have not. Minneapolis in 1982, Anchorage in 1989 and Boston in 1996 were not very successful.
Grand Forks and Fargo are college and high school hockey towns. Fans have seen prep players (like Brian Lee) and Sioux players (too many to name) go off to this tournament and they understand what it’s about.
Buffalo may be a success because of the close proximity of London, Ont., and Toronto. Those large Canadian cities may travel well to Buffalo. But it’s still not the sure thing that Grand Forks is.
What does USA Hockey do? Go with the sure thing? Or does it risk profits to spread the tournament around the country?