Ottawa’s World Junior bid needs local volunteers

By Lindsay Chung

Centretown hockey fans may have something worth cheering about come Jan. 30.

Coming off the heels of a disappointing loss to the United States in this year’s World Junior Championship final, Canada’s junior team could get their redemption on local ice.

Ottawa has been named one of five cities on Hockey Canada’s shortlist to host the 2006 WJC, along with Vancouver, Quebec City, Saskatoon and a joint bid from London-Kitchener. The list was narrowed down from 11 Canadian cities competing to host the tournament, which showcases junior stars from around the world.

Ottawa Bid Committee co-chair Jeff Hunt said most of the round-robin games of the tournament, which features 31 games played by 10 countries, will be played at the Ottawa Civic Centre. All of Canada’s games, and the elimination and medal games will be played at the Corel Centre.

With the Civic Centre practically in their backyards, Centretown residents would have the unique opportunity to see many of the National Hockey League’s top draft picks in one tournament, or even help out behind the scenes.

A major event like this, which would run from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, requires a lot of time and work from a small army of volunteers.

“I don’t see any problem of people supporting us in that domain,” co-chair Jules Lavictoire said.

He said volunteers would be asked to do alittle of everything.

“I remember going to Salt Lake City in the 2002 Olympics and seeing people as security, guide persons and working inside the rinks as ushers or welcoming all the people coming into the arena…There’s tons of responsibility, and we need (volunteers) for sure to make this a real success.”

Hunt, who is also president of the Ottawa 67’s, said residents of Centretown would make a good fit, though tournament organizers would not specifically solicit them.

“It’s up to the residents of Centretown . . . with the people of Centretown being so close to the Civic Centre, it would be convenient for both volunteering and going to games.”

The lure of seeing some of the world’s hottest junior stars so close to their homes is strong for some Centretown residents.

Steve Bell said he would consider volunteering and going to games because his house is within walking distance of the Civic Centre.

“Sure, I’d go to a game or two if I had the chance,” he said.

Leanne Burpee, another Centretown resident, is also excited at the prospect of the WJCs being held in Ottawa.

“I’d definitely go to the games, but with volunteering, I’d hopefully be too busy here (The Wall Street Bar and Grill) because of (the tournament),” she said.

Bid Committee members are optimistic they will be able to bring the World Juniors to fans like Bell and Burpee.

“We really hope that Ottawa is the winning city, and we are ready to look after this major event,” Lavictoire said. “The community is really behind this event and looking forward to seeing this happen in the Ottawa district.”

Lavictoire, who is also president of the Ottawa District Hockey Association, is heading the bid along with Hunt. The Ottawa Senators and the City of Ottawa are also bid partners.

The five remaining cities presented their bids in person to Hockey Canada in Calgary on Jan. 18, and the final decision should be announced Jan. 30.

Hunt is confident about Ottawa’s chances.

“We believe we have the number one bid, and there’s a lot of assets to our bid, not the least that Ottawa is the number one junior hockey city in the world,” he said. “Ottawa deserves an event like this to show appreciation for the support the city gives to junior hockey.”

Lavictoire agrees Ottawa is the right city to host this event.

“We have the experience in every aspect, like marketing, financial support, volunteers and the support of the public,” he said. “It’s just another aspect to show the world that Ottawa is one of the top cities to hold a major event like this, and again, we’re ready.”