Transforming U.S. into 'World Junior capital'

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Officials from here and Thief River Falls, Minn., have traveled to the world junior hockey championships in Finland to promote next year's event, which they will host.

``When you get into Grand Forks, we want you to feel that you're in the World Junior capital,'' said Craig Perry, athletic director for Grand Forks public schools.

Perry and about 30 others, including Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown and Thief River Falls Mayor Dale Wennberg, are sporting parkas while in Finland with a logo for next year's tournament, to promote the event.

They hope to improve on marketing of the tournament for players under 20 years old, which is not widely followed in the United States.

``We're trying to meet with the key individuals who have put this tournament on and model after the parts that have made it successful,'' said Chris Semrau, one of the organizers of next year's tournament.

``We know we have great facilities, we know we have a track record of putting on big events, and we know we have a city that supports athletic events,'' Perry said.

A big part of next year's tournament will be a ``fanfest'' in a basketball arena being built next to Ralph Engelstad Arena on the University of North Dakota campus.

Fans will not need game tickets to attend the event, which will include such things as hockey hall of fame exhibits, interactive games and entertainment.

Other plans call for current and former professional players to make appearances.

A total of about 13,500 seats will be available in the two cities during next year's tournament. So far, about 5,000 tickets have been sold.

``Between the U.S. success (in this year's tournament), the facilities and the proximity to Canada, that could be a very positive formula for not only this tournament, but tournaments to come,'' Semrau said.