Remember that feeling of excitement just before the Winter Classic was announced? Of course they didn’t tell you what was going on, it was one of those “major announcements” the people in charge never talk about but are everywhere before the presser starts. Still, you knew that something really, really cool was about to happen.
Try to remember that feeling again because today something really, really cool is going to happen. For as much fanfare as the Winter Classic received and as successful as it was, hosting the World Juniors in Western New York is bigger then that one game ever will be. If you’ve never seen this level of hockey before, take a look at this:
That was this year’s gold medal game. Tell me that’s not going to be some amazing hockey? This isn’t some prospect scrimmage or pro day game, this is a tournament full of hockey players doing anything they can to win for their country. You heard the names, Turris, Stamkos, Tavares, Schenn; all guys that will be stars for years to come in the NHL. The World Juniors is the showcase for up and coming hockey talent, and in two years Buffalo will be the place to see it.
You can call it a testament to how popular hockey is in Western New York, and you can rave about the venues and the people who sold the selection committee on us. HSBC Arena has hosted some big hockey events before and will be a great venue for the tournament; and the Sabres and USA Hockey deserve all the credit in the world for luring another big event to Buffalo.
Still, this is bigger than just hockey. This is an international event, and people from all over the world will come to Western New York with the hopes of being dazzled not just by what’s on the ice, but what should make Buffalo a great host city. This region is being given a chance by the IIHF, a chance to make an impression on anyone who visits in Winter ’10. This means not only putting on a good tournament, but putting a good face on the entire region.
It’s not a exactly beauty pageant, but this area has two years to make good on the trust USA Hockey has in us by holding the tournament here. This means two years to improve infrastructure, venues, lodging, and the overall image of the area. Improving hotel options and quality, having proper transportation in place, and for the love of God, giving people things to do with their down time should all be on the agenda.
The World Juniors isn’t just a one or two day boost to the local economy, this is a ten team, thirty one game tournament taking place over two weeks. That’s a lot of people and a lot of money floating around the area, and local government better have a plan to maximize use of this sudden cash flow.
Starting today the clock is ticking, and over the next two years you are going to see a lot of changes to the area. We’ve seen our fair share of awful times in Western New York, but the skyline in Buffalo is changing for the better, and now we have a major international event to look forward to.
Today is the start of something big. Let’s just hope we aren’t in over our heads.