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Renney says Hockey Canada committed to Montreal for 2017 world juniors

01/05/2015 03:45 EST | Updated 03/07/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Attendance issues at the Bell Centre have been a cause for concern at the world junior championship. But on Monday, Hockey Canada reaffirmed its commitment to Montreal as a co-host city for the 2017 tournament.

Responding to comments by IIHF council member Frank Gonzalez and president Rene Fasel about keeping options open for two years from now, Hockey Canada president and CEO Tom Renney threw cold water on the idea of holding the tournament exclusively in Toronto in 2017.

"I think we're deeply committed to Montreal, as we should be," Renney said. "We feel very strongly about Montreal being an outstanding hockey market in the world, period.

"There's no reason to suggest anything other than that."

Hockey Canada has come under criticism from fans for expensive ticket prices that contributed to empty seats for Canadian games in Montreal. Fasel said Hockey Canada was responsible for setting the ticket prices, which ranged from $66 to $366.

Renney took over for Bob Nicholson this past summer and was not responsible for prices that were set before he came on the job. Renney deferred comment on ticket prices until Hockey Canada can review everything about this tournament but assumed the onus for decisions moving forward.

"I'm responsible for what happens beyond this point, so I'm good with that," Renney said. "And I think taking responsibility for what lies ahead is critical for all of us."

There were 3,000 empty seats at the Bell Centre for the marquee New Year's Eve game between Canada and the United States and more for the opener against Slovakia on Boxing Day. Fasel estimated this tournament would finish with between 365,000 and 385,000 total fans.

That would make it the third-most-attended world juniors in history but well behind Ottawa in 2009 (453,000) and Edmonton and Calgary in 2012 (444,000).

Asked if he was worried about ticket prices for this tournament being too high, Renney said if review showed that to be the case "then I have concerns, no question."

"The last thing I want to do is ostracize kids from the game of hockey because they can't afford to play it," Renney said.

Renney wasn't certain on how much of a profit Hockey Canada would reap from this tournament, saying that it might be "a little light" of an estimate of $20-$25 million.

"It's certainly a healthy event at the very least," Renney said. "We want to pump as much of this back into development as we can."

Fasel wondered if marketing was a problem that led to smaller crowds in Montreal. Renney wasn't sure if that was the case but didn't mind the IIHF president being critical of Hockey Canada.

"We have to hold ourselves to a high standard," Renney said. "We're big people, we're adults, we can deal with that."

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