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StarPhoenix article (Business booms for CHL, world juniors)

May 30 2012 at 7:10 AM
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N. W. Bruin  (Login NW_Bruin_GM)

Response to Vancouver Province article (Samuelsson's stock on the rise)

Business booms for CHL, world juniors

By Pat Hickey, The StarPhoenix

May 30, 2012

Junior hockey is big business.

We saw that last week in Shawinigan, Que., which played host to the Memorial Cup tournament. Every hotel and auberge in the city was fully booked. The same held true for accommodations in neighbouring Trois-Rivieres.

Folks were lined up three deep to order a Shawinigan Handshake at Le Trou du Diable, and the two chip wagons on Fifth Avenue were doing a roaring business as the local bars closed. (For the uninitiated, a Shawinigan Handshake is a locally crafted brew whose label carries a caricature of former prime minister Jean Chretien with his hands around the neck of Don Cherry.)

The Edmonton Oil Kings arrived on a chartered flight, while the London Knights made the trek in a bus equipped with Internet connections and satellite television. Brothers Mark and Dale Hunter can afford such luxury. The former National Hockey League players who own the London franchise take in more than $6 million in gate receipts, and their player payroll is one-tenth of that. NHL owners would love those profit margins.

But if the Canadian Hockey League's gamble on a relatively small market like Shawinigan paid off last week, the rewards were dwarfed by the windfall produced at the world junior championships this year in Alberta.

At Hockey Canada's annual meeting last weekend, the governing body tabled a preliminary report on the event. It showed a profit in excess of $22 million, which is why Canadian cities are lined up to host the event.

Hockey Canada will get $9 million to support grassroots programs across the country. A chunk of that will go toward recruiting young players and another chunk will be devoted to keeping them in the game. Hockey Canada also retains $3 million to help attract future tournaments.

The CHL, which contributed most of the players to the bronze-medal Canadian team, gets $6.6 million. Most of that money will go into the scholarship program for major-junior players. The three major junior leagues announced last week that they spent $5.2 million on scholarships this past school year for 545 active and 722 former players. That's a lot of money until you do the math - it averages out to a shade over $4,100 a player, which doesn't cover tuition at most Canadian universities.

Hockey Alberta gets $950,000, while the other 12 branches across the country get $165,000 each.

The International Ice Hockey Federation receives $1.5 million, while the other nine federations represented in the tournament will divide $450,000.

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