Around 50,000 have seen 10 games so far

Updated: December 28, 2004, 7:38 PM ET
Associated Press

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Attendance at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship has been "solid" so far, totaling around 50,000 for 10 preliminary games here and in Thief River Falls, Minn., organizers said.

Chris Semrau, a spokesman for the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, said interest has grown as the tournament heads toward its final rounds next week.

"Overall, the tournament's gone great," he said.

Semrau said Monday's Canada-Sweden game sold 3,300 single-game tickets, pushing the attendance for the afternoon game to 10,739, the largest crowd through the first three days of the tournament.

Among those who needed a ticket instead of a coaching pass was Dean Blais, the former University of North Dakota men's hockey coach, who was in Grand Forks on a scouting mission.

Blais resigned as head coach of Team USA for the World Junior tournament after he left UND to become an assistant with the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets last summer.

He said Team USA is in good hands with head coach Scott Sandelin and his assistants, Mike Hastings and David Quinn.

"USA Hockey made the right choice," Blais said.

While Canada is the favorite at the World Junior tournament, he said, the U.S. team is strong.

"If the U.S. gets in the final game, win or lose, that will be a successful tournament," Blais said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press