It’s not Christmas without the world juniors.
That was the overwhelming sentiment Thursday as the announcement was made that Edmonton and Red Deer will co-host the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.
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.
In a process that took more than six months to come together, Red Deer Rebels owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter said the organization was thrilled to get on board.
BREAKING: Red Deer and Edmonton named host of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship!
— Red Deer Rebels (@Rebelshockey) December 6, 2018
“It was a fabulous event. It’s been that long now, 26 years,” Sutter said.
“It’s a tremendous honour and I am very, very happy for our city… It’s all about community and the grassroots of hockey and I’m very fortunate to be a part of that. Hockey is our sport. Hockey is our culture. To have some small part in it is awesome.”
It is likely there will be minor upgrades needed to the Centrium, which currently seats about 7,000 people.
“Our community is a hockey-loving community and a community of volunteers,” said Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer, who also attended the announcement in Edmonton.
“There’s also the infrastructure spinoff and investment that comes at a time when we need it the most, given the state of the provincial economy.
“The economic spinoff for world juniors is between $30 and $50 million. Certainly, that’s very welcome for various sectors of our local economy.”
Veer added the 1995 tournament kick-started a sports tradition that is still being felt in the community today.
“Red Deer’s ability to host the world juniors is yet another game-changing opportunity for us,” she said.
“Red Deer has a strong community history. We hosted the world juniors in 1995 and that actually built major event sport tourism into our community identity.”
— Rogers Place (@RogersPlace) December 6, 2018
Red Deer and Edmonton also showed their ability to host an international tournament this summer, hosting the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for the first time. Hockey Canada president and CEO Tom Renney said although that helped, it wasn’t a deciding factor.
“I’m not sure we learned more than we already knew. We got reacquainted with the incredible volunteers that live in these two communities. Certainly, when it comes to game ops and putting on events such as this, Red Deer and Edmonton lead the league in that respect,” said Renney.
“We feel very comfortable this event will be second to none and might be the best ever.”
He noted the model of hosting in a major city with an NHL building, like the 2019 world championships this year in Vancouver and Victoria, is a strong vision for how the tournament might look down the road.
JUST ANNOUNCED! 🇨🇦 Edmonton and Red Deer will host the world’s best junior hockey players and the 45th edition of the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2021 (tournament begins Dec. 2020). #WorldJuniors #WJC2021https://t.co/59V5b6JWIe pic.twitter.com/b5Nzt50LHx
— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) December 6, 2018
“There are creative ways to pull this off and this is one of them. We like the fact that there is a combination of a major-junior city building,” Renney added.
“The bottom line is we want to see some sort of synergy between the big rink and that population, and the smaller rink and that rural area, if you will. Red Deer can be effective in hosting the event as well.”
There was also discussion Thursday that communities surrounding Red Deer will host a pre-tournament game, similar to what occurred during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
“It is about getting kids in hockey– making sure we inspire boys and girls to play,” Renney said.
“Those involved with parasport do the same thing. At the end of the day, there’s a lot of flash to this, but most of all, is the connection to the game of hockey.”