Excited hockey fans are buying up tickets to the World Junior Championship, featuring Team Canada in the pre-tournament that starts Sunday in Red Deer.
The event that’s expected to generate $20-$30 million in local economic spin-off is especially thrilling for city businesses and the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.
Although the international hockey games will be split between Red Deer and Edmonton, Reg Warkentin, policy and government relations manager for the Chamber, still estimates a great economic return for this region.
“We are so appreciative to the bid committee for helping bring the event here,” Warkentin said. “Our hotels and restaurants are still going through a really tough time and there will be a lot of players, staff and their families and fans coming” to stay and dine in the city.
Warkentin came up with the economic impact figures by looking at the spin-off generated in other centres where the World Juniors were held. He also drew comparisons to the Canadian Finals Rodeo held in Red Deer and other such events.
Although most games played by Team Canada are slated for the bigger Edmonton arena, Warkentin noted some of the quarter-finals will be played in Red Deer. “We are hoping it will draw in people from far and wide” as fans can expect to see a very high level of hockey, with many future NHL players.
Tickets are largely sold, with mostly singles still available, said Mike Olesen, CEO of Westerner Park.
He added the Centrium is prepared for another world-class event during the pandemic, after the success of the Canadian Finals Rodeo. “There is absolutely excitement. This has been a long time coming,” added Olesen, who noted the postponement of last year’s championship, due to COVID 19.
The World Juniors were last held in Red Deer in 1995.
One way to catch some of the games is to volunteer — and more volunteers are still needed at Westerner Park in arena and guest services, as well as food and beverage areas, said Olesen.
Joe Whitbread, who will be games announcer for the World Juniors in Red Deer, called it “a bucket list thing for me.” He encouraged Central Albertans to volunteer for what’s sure to be a memorable event; “There’s the fun and excitement, and you will get to meet people…”
Some games will also be played at the Gary W. Harris Canada Game Centre at Red Deer Polytechnic.
Team Canada faces off against Switzerland on Sunday and against Sweden on Monday in exhibition games in Red Deer. Other pre-tournament games will feature teams from the U.S., Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Finland.
The World Juniors officially kick off on Dec. 26 and run to Jan. 5 in Red Deer and Edmonton.