Hockey fans in Red Deer and Central Alberta were once slated to see the best under-20 players from around the world compete over the next two weeks at the Centrium.
The COVID-19 pandemic had other plans, forcing the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championships to move to a bubble in Edmonton at Rogers Place.
Team Canada spent a somewhat tumultuous month in Red Deer, arriving on Nov. 17 for a month-long selection camp. That camp was quickly derailed when two players tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire group was forced to quarantine for 14-days.
But now, the Canadians are in Edmonton and all things seem to be a go for the two-week holiday extravaganza, which will feature 10 countries and start on Christmas Day. The gold medal will be given out on Jan. 5.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer extended congratulations to the competing countries and a welcome to the players on behalf of the city Wednesday.
“Hockey is our national unifier. The maple leaf unites Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Wearing the Team Canada jersey is among our country’s highest honours, and when a bench of 25 players proudly play for the maple leaf at World Juniors, our nation unites in our pride for our flag and our pride in the “True North” we have the fortune of calling our home,” Veer said in the letter.
“World Juniors is more than a hockey tournament, it is our national tradition. Every year, Canadians from across the country proudly wear red, wave the maple leaf, and lose our voices as we celebrate Team Canada overtime goals at World Juniors.”
Red Deer is still a partner host city for the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship and is expected to be a co-host of the 2022 event. Red Deer last hosted the tournament in 1995.
“As we continue to navigate the pandemic, this tournament provides a bright spot not only for sports fans, but for all Canadians,” Veer wrote.
“As our country’s official national winter sport, hockey has the power to unite Canadians. Collectively, we will be cheering on Team Canada as they bring home another championship.”