The World Junior Hockey Championships will be coming back to Alberta.
At an IIHF press conference ahead of the men’s Olympic hockey semi-finals in Beijing, officials took questions regarding all things international hockey.
IIHF president Luke Tardif announced that the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships, which were hosted in Edmonton and Red Deer but were cancelled mid-tournament, will be rescheduled for mid-August, after the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
It is unknown whether the tournament will be coming back to Red Deer.
“It will be in the middle of August in Alberta. It will be a new competition, which means we forget the results (in December),” Tardif said, confirming that it will be the same age category as in the original tournament, namely players born in 2002 or younger.
“We are talking with all participants and are negotiating on details. It will be after the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. It will be a hockey festival and the teams are excited to do it,” said Tardif.
The 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup is currently slated to be held in Edmonton and Red Deer in early August. Tardif talked about the possibility of an “international hockey festival,” which could potentially mean hosting the tournaments back-to-back in the same cities.
“I think it will be really interesting,” he said.
Tardif explained that the IIHF and Hockey Canada are still working on the details and expect to announce official plans in March.
Red Deer Rebels owner, GM and president Brent Sutter said they’ll be waiting for that announcement.
“There has certainly been discussions with Hockey Canada but there’s nothing imminent at this point,” Sutter said.
The Rebels played a key role in the original plan to bring the tournament to the city in 2020. That event was held solely in Edmonton without fans because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and was rescheduled to be held in Red Deer the following year.
The 2022 World Juniors started in Red Deer and Edmonton in late December of 2021, as COVID-19 Omicron cases spiked in the province.
Pre-tournament games, which were scheduled to start on Dec. 19 were cancelled because of several positive COVID-19 cases. Each team played one pre-tournament game on Dec. 23, ahead of the tournament starting on Dec. 26.
After several days of round robin play, the tournament was cancelled because of multiple COVID-19 positive cases among the players.
Tardif, newly appointed to the role of IIHF president, said that was a difficult way to start his tenure.
“Sometimes, some people say how come you started? You have to remember that on the 13 of December, nobody talked about Omicron at that time. It had come so suddenly,” Tardif said.
“I think it was the right decision because the competition was going nowhere. Sometimes you have to handle the health conditions that the province or government gives us. That’s why August is important. It’s a little bit further away, because what we would like is to make sure there is less protocol or no protocols. This way, we can play in the usual condition.”
The IIHF confirmed that the summer event may have relegation, which wasn’t the case when the World Juniors started in December. The promoted teams are slated to play a 10-team event Novosibirsk and Omsk, Russia in December, for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.