The countdown is on for the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championships that will sweep into Red Deer and Edmonton next Christmas.
When the 2020 tournament concluded Sunday, with Canada capturing a thrilling 4-3 win over Russia in the gold medal game in Ostrava, Czech Republic, the focus turned to Canada.
It’s anticipated the world junior tournament will inject about $21 million into the local economy, and that comes at a time when the region can use a boost in various sectors, Mayor Tara Veer said Monday.
“It is an incredible honour for us to be invited to be a partner city for the 2021 world juniors, and I think it’s a credit to the community,” she said.
The event will be used as a catalyst for minor capital upgrades at the Centrium, including concourse improvements, seating modernization and washroom expansion.
The renovations are needed at the Centrium, not just for the tournament, but for other events such as the Canadian Finals Rodeo, the mayor said.
The city hopes to partner with Westerner Park, Red Deer County and the province to fund the upgrades.
The event will be more proof of Red Deer’s ability to host major sporting events, said Veer, who credits community spirit and volunteerism for that capacity.
“We’ve had a great attraction in recent years in our sports tourism strategy. Certainly, securing the Canada Winter Games demonstrated Red Deer is more than ready to host major sporting events.
“It’s also worth noting that world juniors had changed their model many years ago, and they were partnering with larger cities exclusively. But they have now shifted back to larger city-smaller city markets and Red Deer will be a direct beneficiary of that change in model.”
The end of the tournament means that the groups are set for the much-anticipated event Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2021.
Group B, which will be played in Red Deer, will feature Russia, Sweden, U.S.A., Czech Republic and Austria.
Canada, the defending champion, will be in Group A in Edmonton, in a pool with Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany.
The emotional connection Canada has with the tournament has blossomed over the years, especially since 1995, when Red Deer last played host. Edmonton co-hosted with Calgary in 2012.
Red Deer and Edmonton also showed their ability to welcome the world in 2018, hosting the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for the first time.