Things are going to be quite a bit different in Buffalo when you compare things to the last time the World Junior Championships came to town.
Downtown is far more vibrant, Canalside is slightly more developed and HarborCenter will serve as the second home for the tournament. No more jaunts to Dwyer Arena to catch the secondary matchups, which not only means that the corner of Perry and Washington will be home to more action throughout the tournament, some of the intriguing non-marquee matchups will be easier to access.
The WJC will always have a handful of can’t miss preliminary matchups and this year will be no different. The outdoor game between the US and Canada, which is reported to have a surprisingly low attendance number (paywall) at the moment, is the obvious headliner, but Russia-Sweden, USA-Finland and Canada-Finland will be well worth the cost of attendance as well. What fans in Buffalo should be aware of are the slate of games lacking headliners which will be both affordable and appealing from a Sabres-fan perspective.
The languishing ticket sales for the event as a whole has created a market with a lot of cheap tickets for nearly every round robin game. The most expensive non-outdoor starting ticket price on StubHub at the moment is $47 for Canada-Denmark. You can snag a ticket at New Era Field for only $58 and gold medal game seats start at $56 at the moment. So there aren’t any games priced prohibitively on the secondary market.
For Sabres fans, the presence of Casey Mittelstadt, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Marcus Davidsson (and maybe Alex Nylander) and Vojtech Budik means that teams in both pools will be worth monitoring closely, with a couple of games featuring from the cozy confines of HarborCenter.
Below are some games that Sabres fans should circle if you’re looking for an affordable way to check out the 2018 WJC and some Sabres prospects along the way.
Day one of the tournament features a trio of worthwhile contests as Belarus and Sweden faceoff at 2:00 at HarborCenter while Canada and the US both take the ice at Key Bank Center later in the day. The former takes on Finland at 4:00 while the latter faces Denmark at 8:00.
Belarus vs. Sweden is my pick for the best bet of the day for Sabres fans. Playing the game at HarborCenter will provide a more intimate atmosphere and, ideally, make an otherwise thin crowd feel full. There are a handful of tickets listed at $40 or higher but you can get a reserved seat between the bluelines – not that there’s a bad seat in the house – for $7.50.
Both games at KeyBank Center are going for a fair bit more, but you can snag 300 level tickets for USA-Denmark for $18 at the moment while tickets for Canada-Finland start at $40.
The only contest at HarborCenter on the 28th is between Russia and Switzerland and while Andrei Svechnikov ought to be worth the price of admission, the three games at KeyBank Center that day have more to offer Sabres fans.
Give Sweden another tip of the hat as the 4:00 Sweden vs. Czech Republic game could feature up to three Sabres prospects, depending on the status of Alex Nylander and Vojtech Budik, and can be attended for as low as $6(!!!) at the moment. You won’t spend much more to sit down low, 100 level tickets are as low as $19 on StubHub.
Finland vs. Denmark is also a $6 game at the moment and that’s a great price to get a look at UPL up close and personal, I don’t know how exciting the contest against Denmark promises to be. So toss the cost of a couple Super Mighties at the Sweden vs. Czech game and enjoy.
You may be asking yourself, why did he skip the outdoor game? That’s the most talked about and marketed game on the slate for this entire tournament and while I’m extremely surprised to learn that organizers are hoping to hit the 40,000 mark for the outdoor game, you don’t need too much prodding to know that’s a game worth watching (and for $58 a pop it’s relatively affordable).
Sweden is back at Harborcenter again at 2:00 on the 30th, playing the Swiss, a game with tickets starting as low as $10. However, Finland vs. Slovakia is my pick of the day. Tickets for the game at KeyBank Center start at $6 and the Slovaks ought to give UPL enough work to give fans a decent look at the future Sabre to make the low buy in more than worth your while.
The traditional round robin headliner won’t be without some fireworks. Aside from USA-Canada on the 29th, this day packs the most punch of the tournament by a long shot. The two headliners at KeyBank Center make for a terrific doubleheader as USA vs. Finland goes at 4:00, followed by Russia vs. Sweden at 8:00.
Catch Casey Mittelstadt and UPL going head-to-head for as little as $24 a ticket and tack on the nightcap featuring Group B’s medal favorites for only $6 more. If there’s a better price in the entire event than $6 for Russia-Sweden I’d be very surprised.
Now also seems like an opportune time to grab tickets for the gold medal game if you’re dead set on going. Anything below the 300 level is pricey but there are a few blocks of 300 level seats which fall below the $75 price point, a very affordable ticket if you consider the event. Buying further into the tournament runs the risk of seeing the prices skyrocket should the Canadians look like favorites for gold, which the roster indicates they should.
There are a ton of great deals to be had for this tournament. Hopefully the turnout for the games is better than some reports on ticket sales may indicate. But if they aren’t you could be in line to enjoy some excellent hockey for a terrific price.