With Team GB hosting the World Championships in 2017 Jono Bullard says that it is absolutely the right decision for Belfast to host.
On Friday it was announced that the SSE Arena in Belfast will host Division 1B of the Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships in April 2017, beating a challenge from Tallin, Estonia. It will be the first time that the United Kingdom has hosted a senior Men’s World Championship group since Pool C in Hull in 1992.
Ice Hockey UK Chairman Richard Grieveson, Andy French, Belfast Giants & the SSE Arena worked on a presentation that was given to the IIHF Congress in Moscow on Friday morning and was supported by this beautifully shot video by Neil Whiteside:
Richard Grieveson also talked about the bid with Bob Ballard on Talksport Extra Time:
While there has been a lot of support for the bid since it was revealed that Belfast was in the running to host the championships, there has also been some quite vocal opposition to the tournament being held in the Northern Ireland capital, with concerns ranging from cost to security. I really don’t see how security will be a problem. I have travelled over to Belfast several times and haven’t seen any problems. Unfortunately in the times we now live in there will be a risk wherever events are held, especially in major cities. For example, when I travelled to Hamburg to watch Panthers in the Champions Hockey League there was a riot outside our hotel, however that would not stop me travelling to Hamburg or Germany again as I know it was a rare and isolated incident. In my opinion it shouldn’t be an issue for anyone wanting to travel to Belfast for the tournament.
I understand that many fans enjoy their annual trips to watch Team GB and cost is a major factor in that, but the first priority has to be giving the team the best possible chance to win promotion, hosting the tournament will give them that chance. Also it gives Ice Hockey UK the a platform to promote the game in this country through increased media interest and the IIHF who will be in overall charge of the tournament.
Then there is the venue itself. The SSE Arena has a rich history of hosting prestigious events and ice hockey tournaments, from the World Police & Fire games in 2013 to the NCAA Friendship Four in 2015 (which they will host again in November 2016). Belfast has the drive but also the experience to host a tournament of this standing, I have absolutely no doubt that they will make it a success.
For me it is a logical choice and gives Team GB the best possible chance of promotion to Division 1A. As long as the ticket prices are reasonable I would hope that the public will support the event. While I don’t expect the GB games to be sold out (though it would be nice if they were) I’d hope to see crowds of at least 4,500 – 5,000 for the evening games. It is an opportunity for the wider UK population to see Team GB in a championship. It is a huge positive for Ice Hockey UK to host the tournament in my opinion and I’d hope that GB hockey fans will give it their full support.
You can follow Jono on Twitter @JonoBullard