File photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate staff Red Deer Rebels forward Austin Pratt tries to convert a wrap around on Calgary Hitmen netminder Nick Schneider. Pratt played for Team U.S.A. at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka tournament.

High-end hockey, millions of dollars to come to Red Deer with Ivan Hlinka hockey tournament

The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup will bring fast-paced, high-end hockey to Red Deer and have an economic impact of about $5-million.

The tournament features the best 17-year-old hockey players from around the world.

Red Deer Rebel forward Austin Pratt played in the tournament in 2016 for Team U.S.A. It was his first ever international tournament.

“It was definitely something special,” he said. “I know, being from the U.S., all the Americans who are good players, but I got to play against the best from around the world.

“The games are really high-paced, everything is really intense.”

That year, Pratt’s team won a silver medal, losing in the final to the Czech Republic. Pratt finished the tournament with one assist.

“It opens your eyes to the amount of talent that’s really out there,” said Pratt. “You usually know everyone in North America at your age, but not really around the world unless they come over to play against you. You realize your strengths and weakness and what you have to work on to beat them out of a spot down the road.”

Red Deer will host an exhibition game between Team Canada and the Czech Republic and six round robin games as a co-host of the 2018 tournament. The tournament runs from Aug. 4 to 12. The rest of the games will be held in Edmonton

The bid, led by Edmonton, will be the first time the tournament is held in Canada. Edmonton will host the tournament in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

The games will also be a chance for Red Deer to show off its new rink, as the games will be played at the Servus Arena. The arena is scheduled to open Jan. 13, 2018, and will have about eight months to get ready for its first major sporting event.

Stuart Ballantyne, Oilers Entertainment Group senior vice-president operations, said the estimate of the $5-million economic impact encompasses Red Deer, Edmonton and the surrounding areas. It largely indicates the money will be generated through hotel, restaurant and other tourism dollars.

“We will have an accurate breakdown of the economic benefits, by city, once we have hosted the first tournament and completed our spectator and visitor spending research,” Ballantyne wrote in an email.

Dallas Gaume, Red Deer Minor Hockey General Manager, said it was very exciting to see the tournament coming to the city.

“It’s some of the top 17-year-old players in the world so it will be exciting for Red Deer hockey fans,” said Gaume. “I think it’s a good opportunity for the kids in our system to see some high-end players that aren’t that much older than them.”

The tournament is named for Ivan Hlinka, who played for and later coached the Czechoslovakia national team.

Canada won the most recent tournament in 2017.

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