Leading in to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship the host committee has formed the Playmakers group, bringing together business leaders from across B.C. to serve as event ambassadors and strategic advisors, as well as serving as a connection to local partners and businesses in Vancouver and Victoria.
The Playmakers will help share the message from Hockey Canada and the host committee, and support initiatives around community engagement and the benefits of hosting the World Juniors in their backyard.
This month, HockeyCanada.ca sat down with Ron Toigo (majority owner, Vancouver Giants, WHL) and Barry Petrachenko (chief executive officer, B.C. Hockey), who serve as co-chairs of the host organizing committee.
Q: Why is it important for you to be involved in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship?
RT: It was something that we did in the past, in 2006 (Toigo led the host committee then, as well), and it was a really great event for the city and the province. There was an opportunity to get it back after 12 or 13 years; it’s just a good event for our community, and the timing was right.
BP: It’s a great event, and arguably the greatest amateur hockey event in Canada. That’s first and foremost. We think the involvement of B.C. Hockey brings that event down to the grassroots and helps in our attempts to ensure that everyone in British Columbia gets an opportunity to celebrate hockey, and to be aware of the great things that are involved in the game.
Q: How does B.C. Hockey plan to celebrate its 100th anniversary in conjunction with the World Juniors?
BP: We’re hoping that the championship will provide the platform to bring some attention to some of the things we’re doing to celebrate. We’ll be announcing the 100 great moments in our history, including events, people and things that happened around hockey. We also will be conducting the Road to the World Juniors, which will begin in October, and all areas of the province will be visited by that. At pre-competition sites we’ll be working with our minor hockey associations to deliver a World Juniors-themed tournament in those communities. It’s a good tie-in to our 100th anniversary, and that will be a major story for us around B.C. all year, and the World Juniors is a great cherry on top of that.
Q: Why are Vancouver and Victoria the right cities to host the World Juniors?
RT: Vancouver has a good history from doing it in the past; it has a reputation as an event city and supports these things when they come along. We needed another city to do it with us; we went with Kelowna and Kamloops the last time [in 2006], and Victoria was very enthusiastic to be a part of this. It worked out well, and as a result Victoria has almost sold out with its event.
Q: What will the World Juniors mean to minor hockey in British Columbia?
BP: I think the World Juniors mean a lot to all minor hockey players in the country. It serves as something to weave into the fabric of our holiday season, it brings families together around the game, it gives young people something to feel great about and to cheer along with, and to connect to hockey. I think we’ll definitely get that in British Columbia.
I also think that it will serve as a boon to participation; if we do this right, we’ll be able to get more people to try hockey. We’ve maybe not focused on that aspect of it in the past, and we certainly have that in our plans this year to expose them to the game through the different opportunities, whether it’s around the competition or around the Road to the World Juniors. We think that if you try hockey, you’ll love it, so we think the World Juniors will give us a reason for people to come out and give it a try.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with the Playmakers group?
RT: The Playmakers group is really a group of individuals who are connected throughout the city and the community business-wise and sports-wise. To be able to tap into all of those resources to make sure that the message gets out on the World Juniors and for people that want to be involved in it and participate in it, it’s a great opportunity for them to get involved.
Q: What is your connection with hockey?
RT: I’ve owned a Major Junior team since 1991, so I’ve been involved in this level of hockey for a long, long time. I’ve been fortunate to watch the World Juniors from its start, and now it’s really evolved into something that none of us could have anticipated back in the early ‘90s. It has turned into a really great international event that unites the world in its own little way.
BP: It’s hard to think of a time that I wasn’t connected to the game. I was playing the game since I remember, whether that was with a toy sword fashioned as a hockey stick in the kitchen of my grandparents’ house, to now playing as an old-timer. Of course, I work in hockey, so I do this professionally, and it’s become my work, my life. It’s been something there as a fan, as a player, and now as a parent of a player, it just seems to be a part of me. And as for the World Juniors, I’m old enough to have seen the first one, so it’s been a big part of my life, and it’s so exciting to see it come to B.C. again. I really consider myself fortunate to be getting an opportunity to do this for a second time.