With one game to go, Moncton claims victory in co-hosting world juniors

Sweden's Elias Pettersson, left, looks up ice to make a pass as Finland's Lenni Hameenaho gives chase during the second period of Monday's quarterfinal at the world junior hockey championship in Moncton. Sweden won 3-2 to advance to Wednesday's semifinals against the Czech Republic or Switzerland. (Ron Ward/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Sweden's Elias Pettersson, left, looks up ice to make a pass as Finland's Lenni Hameenaho gives chase during the second period of Monday's quarterfinal at the world junior hockey championship in Moncton. Sweden won 3-2 to advance to Wednesday's semifinals against the Czech Republic or Switzerland. (Ron Ward/The Canadian Press - image credit)

With Moncton's hosting responsibilities almost done for the World Juniors, local officials are already calling it a huge success.

Hotels were almost full, bars and restaurants were packed, as were downtown sidewalks — all at a normally quiet time of the year.

"The city is full," said Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold between games on Monday afternoon.

Arnold had just watched Sweden beat Finland 3-2 at the Avenir Centre. She described it as "a very hotly contested rivalry, but oh so incredibly exciting. And a huge, almost-sellout crowd at the Avenir Centre.

"Absolutely electric. Buzzing, I would say."

Arnold said it was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to see games like this in your own hometown."

The very last chance to do that is Monday night, with the United States scheduled to take on Germany.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press
Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

Along with the economic spin-offs for local businesses, Arnold said the event has helped create "a whole lot of Monctonians who have become honorary Slovaks, I believe."

She said similar relationships have been developed with Finnish fans and players, with many of the players frequenting the Ian Fowler Oval and interacting with young fans and skaters.

Arnold said locals have also proven that they can pull off a top-notch world-class event "in absolute record time.

"Generally speaking, you get a couple of years to plan an event of this magnitude, but this community has rallied in such an incredible way to come together and put on a show, put on an event that is second to none.

"I have not had one complaint. People are just so excited and so proud of how our community has come together," said Arnold.

"I hope it doesn't mean that we'll always do things last-minute, but we have proven the ability to rally really quickly and put something like this together."

She hopes the city can capitalize on the experience and bring other international events to the city — she said there's already talk of trying to get the women's equivalent.

Event had 'fun vibe'

The co-chair of Moncton's organizing committee said the event proved that Moncton is capable of hosting such events in the future.

"I think all of that showed that Moncton and Halifax can stage amazing international events, and I love the fact that it was a partnership between our two cities and our two provinces," said Bill Whalen.

"It's really been amazing. We had hoped we could create a real positive and fun vibe and, you know, I think we've done that," said Whalen.

"The crowds have been fantastic. We've broken all the expectations from Hockey Canada and the IIHF and we have just seen an atmosphere and a community that's alive and so enthusiastic about having this international event."

He said there were fans of all ages, from all backgrounds and with a wide variety of hockey knowledge, all enjoying the festivities.

"I walked Main Street virtually every day, stopping into bars and restaurants to see how they were doing. They were all full. There were people in jerseys from all of the teams that were in our pool here in Moncton and … a number of the Finnish players were skating on the oval with local kids a number of times during the week.

"So it was just an atmosphere that was very exciting, very participatory and I think from an economic point of view, is going to be a huge boon to our economy."