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IIHF Worlds Recap: Small Swedish Crowds Cause Price Slashing

Well, this wasn't exactly the idea the organizers had in mind when they decided to have Stockholm and Helsinki split he hosting duties for the next two World Championships. There were two traditional European powers, who both wowed the audience in Slovakia last year, meeting in the Finals. It was a great advertisement for the next two years, a way to shift the focus away from the likes of the Czechs and Russians and onto the new hosts. But ticket packages proved a tough sell, and when the individual game prices finally came out in the final lead-up to the tournament, fans were shocked by the high prices. Average ticket prices were set at €145, which is over $190 US by current conversion rates. Stockholm is a fairly wealthy city, but the hockey fans weren't buying that these early tournament games were worth that. And neither was Pavel Datsyuk, who asked this Hockey Sverige reporter point blank about the ticket prices after Russia opened with a 5-2 win over Latvia on Saturday in front of a reported 5219 fans (in an arena that has nearly 14,000 seats):

The organizers have responded to the low turnout in Stockholm with a massive price reduction of 70%. Blogger Janne Virtanen had this report on Live It, Eat It, Breathe It:

Organiser Christer Eglund said, "We could have made more of a profit if we would've kept the prices as they were, as the World Championships boom would grow as the games progress. However, we have one of the greatest brands to protect and therefore we are eager to offer all supporters the opportunity to enjoy the games."

The reaction comes after the first four games at Globen were watched only by an audience of 8000.

The IIHF's official numbers show a higher number than the 8000, but it could be a difference of tickets sold and actual butts in seats. The crowds in Helsinki have been criticized as well, but organizers there are not dropping the prices just yet. After a jump, a summary of the action so far as well as the game by game attendance figures.

Stockholm Pool

Game Team 1 Score Shots Team 2 Attendance Best Players
1 De_medium
3 : 0 46 : 22 It_medium
1033 Patrick Reimer (GER), Daniel Bellisimo (ITA)
2 Cz_medium
2 : 0 24 : 26 Dk_medium
1610 Jakub Kovar (CZE), Jannik Hansen (DEN)
3 Se_medium
3 : 1 44 : 20 No_medium
7770 Marcus Kruger (SWE), Mathis Olimb (NOR)
4 Lv_medium
2 : 5 26 : 40 Ru_medium
5219 Miks Indrasis (LAT), Yevgeni Malkin (RUS)
5 Se_medium
4 : 1 20 : 17 Cz_medium
10076 Henrik Zetterberg (SWE), Petr Prucha (CZE)

According to Wikipedia, the Ericsson Globe's capacity is 13,850, which means that over 43,000 tickets went unsold through the first five games. Only one crowd was large enough to justify using the larger Globe arena over the Hovet, located next door that is used for most Elitserien games in the city and has a capacity of just over 8000.

The action itself has seen the home side start off magnificently, and the closest game to date was likely the Czech Republic vs. Denmark game. The Danes lost the services of Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks thanks to a late boarding penalty that will see him suspended for Sunday's game against Italy. All games kind of went as expected on the ice, although that game held the most interest, as well as the Sweden-Czech game on Saturday.

Helsinki Pool

Game Team 1 Score Shots Team 2 Attendance Best Players
1 Us_medium
7 : 2 35 : 23 Fr_medium
8402 Max Pacioretty (USA), Pierre-Édouard Bellemare (FRA)
2 Ca_medium
3 : 2 30 : 22 Sk_medium
6400 Duncan Keith (CAN), Peter Hamerlik (SVK)
3 By_medium
0 : 1 21 : 38 Fi_medium
12354 Vitali Koval (BLR), Kari Lehtonen (FIN)
4 Ch_medium
5 : 1 48 : 20 Kz_medium
7221 Mark Streit (SUI), Dmitri Upper (KAZ)
5 Ca_medium
4 : 5 (OT) 34 : 46 Us_medium
6842 John Tavares (CAN), Jim Slater (USA)

At Hartwall Areena, there have been over 25,000 unsold tickets so far, so you can see how the Finnish organizers are a bit more confident than the Swedish ones with their pricing, but still are open to criticism.

The Americans have come to the tournament well prepared it seems, pushing the play against France and then doing the same to Canada in a hard fought win, their first in this tournament over Canada since 2001. Canada will be adding defenceman Kyle Quincey to their roster, leaving two open skater spots and one open goaltender spot. Since Quincey is the 8th defenceman on Canada's roster, they will likely use their final spots on forwards. The Swiss did quite well in their opener, getting a big performance from Mark Streit while Slovakia looked fairly good in their loss to Canada. Belarus got top notch goaltending from Vitali Koval to give a scare to the defending world champions of Finland, and if he can provide that level of goaltending going forward the team might pull out a couple of unexpected wins. Overall, this group is looking more competitive than what I had expected.

Highlights of the games are available on YouTube, and shouldn't fall under any nationality restriction.