There will be no World Junior Hockey Championship in Red Deer this winter, thanks to the pandemic.
“I know this is a significant disappointment for many Red Deerians who were excited to share in the world junior experience in our community this year,” said Mayor Tara Veer on Thursday.
But she and other fans were cheered by a decision by the International Ice Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada to bring the same championship back to Edmonton and Red Deer in late 2021 and early 2022.
“I know Red Deer will be ready to welcome the world to our community in 2021/2022, and will actively continue our preparations for this incredible opportunity for our city,” said Veer.
She said the City of Red Deer fully supports the IIHF and Hockey Canada’s commitment to host the championship in Red Deer and Edmonton again in a year’s time.
As a result of the global pandemic, this year’s tournament will proceed with no fans in the stands in Edmonton.
While Red Deer will no longer host any live games, “as a proud partner in world juniors, the City of Red Deer will still have a visible presence in Edmonton, giving viewers around the world a preview of what is to come,” said Veer.
“In the coming weeks, we will also look for opportunities to celebrate the tournament’s spirit locally, and bring our community together through the means available to us,” added the mayor.
“Come December, I know many Red Deerians and our fellow Canadians, myself included, will be unified watching and cheering from home as Team Canada brings home another championship and look forward to the privilege of hosting next year.”
The event originally was scheduled to be held in Edmonton and Red Deer from Dec. 26, 2020, to Jan. 5, 2021.
No tournament dates have been confirmed for the revamped 2021 event.
Rogers Place currently is hosting the final two rounds of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Edmonton and Toronto served as co-hosts for the entire NHL post-season.
“This is a tough decision to have to take, but ultimately we did not have a choice,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement.
“The health and safety of players, officials, and fans is our top priority. We were impressed with the presentation from the local organizing committee outlining how a potential bubble scenario would operate within Edmonton, and we are confident that we can follow the NHL’s great example in creating a safe environment for teams to compete.”
Hockey Canada approved of the decision to keep the event in Alberta for two years.
“These are extraordinary times, and we understand the world juniors will look different this year while being played in one venue with additional safety precautions,” Hockey Canada president Tom Renney said in a statement.
Gothenburg, Sweden, which was slated to host the event in 2022, will now do so in 2024.
Novosibirsk, Russia, will host the 2023 event.
The IIHF says keeping the event in Canada, where the tournament traditionally has much higher attendance, in 2022 can help cover financial losses expected to occur in 2021.
“This solution will allow for the IIHF together with Hockey Canada to reduce the overall costs associated with putting on the 2021 tournament in a bubble environment,” Fasel said.
Canada won the 2020 event in the Czech Republic.