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There were many empty seats during the World Junior Showcase in Kamloops

If Canada wasn't playing, not many hockey fans showed up
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Junior attendance
The crowd before the start of a split-squad game between Canada and the U.S on July 31. (via Eric Thompson)

The marquee event of last week's World Junior Showcase, a Saturday afternoon duel between Canada and the United States, drew 1,300 fewer fans than your run-of-the-mill Kamloops Blazers game.

The attendance numbers for last week's event are in and even with the sweltering heat, Kamloops fans weren't exactly piling into the cold confines of the Sandman Centre for the 11-game exhibition of some of the world's top junior players.

Overall, 10,382 people attended a game during the week-long showcase for an average of 944 per game. The entire week drew around 3,000 fewer fans than a single Carolina Hurricanes game.

"I think we were hoping for higher," says Sean Smith, tournament capital and special events supervisor, after hearing the numbers for the first time. "The fact that the games are aired on TSN may have impacted some ticket sales, but without seeing how those numbers are going to shake out, I can't say whether it was a disappointment or not."

When the City of Kamloops hosts an event like this, there is no straight rental fee paid to the city. Instead, part of the venue rental is included in a sponsorship deal and they are partners with Hockey Canada in any profits. Since revenue comes from more places than just ticket sales, it will still take some time to determine the showcase's overall impact.

But from the gates alone, it's probably not what organizers were hoping for. For the World Junior Showcase, tickets for Canada games were around $25, while non-Canada games were around $15.

The highest attended game was the Canada-U.S. tilt, which had 2,507 fans show up. 

By comparison, the same game at last year's summer showcase in Plymouth, Michigan drew 2,756 fans. Last season, the 30-37-5 Kamloops Blazers averaged 3,853 fans per game.

"There were some really exciting games and some really good turnouts," says Smith. "Obviously, the non-Canada games are going to bring our average down."

Not even the star power of Canucks prospect Quinn Hughes and a loaded Team USA could help lift the gates, as games that didn't have Team Canada on the ice averaged just 475 spectators.

The biggest international hockey event the city held previously was the 2016 IIHF Women's World Championship. The 21-game tournament averaged 1,958 people per game, an average dragged down by the fact that nine games were played at the smaller McArthur Island Centre.




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