Hockey World Cup 2016: Bringing together fans and tourists

Hockey World Cup 2016 Bringing together fans and tourists

Fans are enjoying some hockey action in September as the 2016-17 NHL season approaches. The World Cup of Hockey, an eight-team tournament held every four years and governed by the NHL, has certainly heightened interest in recent weeks.

Tourists and fans flocked to pre-tournament locations in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Quebec. They’ve also made their way to Toronto, where the tournament will be held at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The World Cup of Hockey was held in 1996 and 2004, but has not been seen since. However, in order to generate revenue for the league, the NHL redesigned the tournament’s offerings and reintroduced it in 2015. Estimates at the time suggested that corporate sponsorships, TV rights, and ticket and merchandise sales could generate up to $130 million in profits. Given that the 2004 tournament only made $4 million, this was a lofty goal.

With the Leafs’ franchise valued at $1.3 billion by Forbes in 2014, it seemed like a safe bet that hockey fans and tourists alike would flock to see the league’s biggest stars and up-and-comers.

The hospitality industry in Toronto is benefiting as well.

While fans can purchase single game tickets, they can also purchase World Cup of Hockey-branded ticket packages from TicketmasterVIP. A Hospitality + Ticket Package includes game tickets as well as a pre-game meal and open bar at a local restaurant.

A Travel Package simplifies trip planning for out-of-town visitors. Bundles include a three-night stay at the Hilton, game tickets (with upgrade options), a visit to the aforementioned buffet with open bar, a World Cup of Hockey souvenir, and staff on hand to help with the itinerary.

Downtown Toronto has been buzzing since the tournament began on September 17. It is not uncommon to see fans wearing their favorite player’s hockey jerseys or clothing with their home country’s flag on it. Locals and tourists alike have packed bars and restaurants to watch the games.

The Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment-owned Real Sports Bar and Grill, located just steps from the Air Canada Centre, has been packed with fans before, during, and after the games. It is a popular place to cheer on Toronto sports teams, and local media frequently visits to cover sporting events.

This tournament was no exception for Real Sports, but Frank Humada, a San Antonio native who now lives and works in Toronto, noticed something different.

“It was surreal walking into Real Sports Bar before the game,” he said. “Despite the fact that I was in Canada, everyone was dressed in USA gear. Not only that, but when they saw each other wearing red, white, and blue, all of the Americans instantly became best friends. A bond was quickly formed based on patriotism and a desire to win.”

Humada was interviewed by ESPN at one point that day, and he was asked what he was looking forward to during the World Cup of Hockey.

“I didn’t say it on camera, but I was excited about embracing the sport of hockey because I had never had a reason to be fully invested,” he explained. “With my country on the line, I can’t think of a better reason to get pumped for the game.”

Humada purchased tickets to several tournament games and is looking forward to broadening his horizons with his new sport, both as a fan and by sharing the experience with those around him, including a friend visiting from Texas.

“I never grew up watching or playing hockey, and it has never been a sport that I have followed,” Humada said. “But having the unique opportunity of watching a team of Americans and supporting my country was something I couldn’t pass up.” “My friend and I decided to wear as much USA gear as we could to stand out, but we discovered that there were thousands of Americans who not only did the same thing, but were even more elaborate in their attire than we were.”

Sports tournaments have consistently proven to be excellent revenue generators. Toronto isn’t the only city in Ontario that has hosting plans in place. Windsor and London recently agreed to put together a joint bid to host the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens acknowledged, with the $1 million bid, that “sporting events can bring big money to (a) city.”

In addition, Ottawa has recently advanced to the second phase of the bid process to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games. The economic value of sports tourism has been recognized once more. The 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec, brought in $165 million and 16,000 visitors. If their bid is successful, Ottawa hopes to build on that legacy.

Although final figures for the World Cup of Hockey have yet to be released, it is clear that the two-week event increased revenue for both the NHL and the city of Toronto’s hospitality industry.

In the past, NHL hockey in September was unusual. The NHL has created an event that not only funds their initiatives, but also attracts fans to wherever the event is held — and creates some new fans along the way — with a tournament to create hype for the league’s superstars.

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