The next level

Ed­mon­ton and Red Deer aim to prove in 2021 that an NHL rink, when part­nered with a CHL arena, can thrive host­ing the world ju­nior tour­ney

The Province - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES [email protected]­media.com @sun­ter­ryjones

ED­MON­TON — So what took so long?

And how did it hap­pen that Ed­mon­ton di­vorced Cal­gary and took up with Red Deer?

Ex­pec­ta­tions of an an­nounce­ment con­firm­ing the 2021 IIHF world ju­nior tour­na­ment in Ed­mon­ton go back months, even years.

When Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary com­bined to play host to the most bal­lis­tic world ju­nior in his­tory in 2012, the idea was that it would be done in re­verse as soon as Rogers Place and the Ice Dis­trict were com­pleted and up and run­ning.

On Thurs­day, it was made of­fi­cial with a press con­fer­ence at Rogers Place, in­clud­ing Hockey Canada heads Scott Smith and Tom Ren­ney, Ri­cardo Mi­randa of the Al­berta gov­ern­ment (with a com­mit­ment for $2.25 mil­lion) and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Ed­mon­ton

CEO Derek Hud­son.

With the an­nounce­ment came di­vorce papers from Cal­gary, a wed­ding cer­e­mony with Red Deer and a de­cree pro­ceed­ing the ex­chang­ing of vows that ex­plained noth­ing un­til in­di­vid­ual in­ter­views ex­plained ev­ery­thing.

Prior to the an­nounce­ment of the Ed­mon­ton-Red Deer event, Hockey Canada pres­i­dent and COO Scott Smith opened with a big­ger pic­ture an­nounce­ment — that Hockey Canada had just se­cured the rights to play host to the 2024, ’26, ’28 and ’31 world ju­niors as well as the 2023 and ’27 world women’s cham­pi­onships.

On Sun­day evening, IIHF vice-pres­i­dent and Oil­ers En­ter­tain­ment Group vicechair­man and CEO Bob Ni­chol­son flew to Zurich and re­turned with the signed doc­u­ments.

Smith said Ed­mon­ton didn’t dump Cal­gary so much as Hockey Canada ditched the con­cept of the ul­tra suc­cess­ful 2012 Ed­mon­tonCal­gary tour­na­ment af­ter the fol­low-up Mon­treal-Toronto com­bi­na­tion turned into a dis­as­ter.

“I don’t know that it switched with them. It switched with us,” said Smith fol­low­ing the for­mal press con­fer­ence.

“We went through 2015 with Toronto and Mon­treal and had a good event, but not the same level it was with 2012 here in Al­berta but rec­og­nized that we pushed the en­ve­lope by go­ing back to Toronto and Mon­treal.

“But in go­ing for­ward with Van­cou­ver-Vic­to­ria we re­ally came to the con­clu­sion that the com­bi­na­tion of an NHL build­ing and a CHL build­ing was prob­a­bly bet­ter for us in the long run.

“Van­cou­ver-Vic­to­ria is trend­ing very well,” he said of this year’s hol­i­day tour­na­ment. “We’re very close to sell­ing out ev­ery game as we speak.”

The idea is that Cal­gary could fol­low with its own host­ing of the event, part­ner­ing up with Leth­bridge or Medicine Hat.

As for the 2021 event, Red Deer Rebels owner Brent Sut­ter and Red Deer mayor Tara Veer sat on the brides side and Smith said he fig­ures with the Rebels WHL build­ing be­ing about 3,000 seats larger than Vic­to­ria, prospects are good for the event to meet or beat Van­cou­ver-Vic­to­ria.

It will be tough, how­ever, to com­pete with the fi­nan­cials of Ed­mon­tonCal­gary in 2012.

“That was the high-wa­ter mark. I think that was $21 mil­lion,” said Smith.

He said Hockey Canada and the IIHF couldn’t wait to hold a world ju­nior in Rogers Place but the fact is, they did.

“In many ways, we wanted to be hold­ing this com­ing world ju­nior here, but we rec­og­nized the ben­e­fits of wait­ing un­til the down­town and Ice Dis­trict was com­plete. We’re re­ally look­ing for­ward to it.”

Ni­chol­son said it’s go­ing to take the world ju­nior where it’s never gone be­fore.

He en­vi­sions an Ed­mon­tonRed Deer suc­cess that could in­spire the com­bi­na­tion of the two cities do­ing it again in ei­ther 2028 or 2031.

“And maybe the women’s worlds,” he said of the Ed­mon­ton-Red Deer part­ner­ship al­ready in place for the Hlinka-Gret­zky un­der18 tour­na­ment ev­ery sec­ond sum­mer.

There was the feel­ing that there might be an ex­cel­lent chance of Ed­mon­ton an­chor­ing the 2023 women’s worlds as well.

With the fi­nal USA-Canada pre-Olympic game fill­ing Rogers Place at this time last year, that idea took hold im­me­di­ately af­ter the game.

“I’d like to see an op­por­tu­nity in a big venue like this,” sasid Smith. “I think we’d like to have the big games in a build­ing like Rogers Place and dis­trib­ute the other games in nearby lo­ca­tions. There are a lot of great fa­cil­i­ties not far from the City of Ed­mon­ton.”

Added Ni­chol­son: “With that great crowd for CanadaUSA just be­fore the Olympics, I think it’s some­thing we should se­ri­ously look at for the fu­ture.”

The Oil­ers boss said Ed­mon­ton-Red Deer works bet­ter be­cause all of the Canada pool games and all medal- round games would be in Rogers Place.

“But an equally big thing is that Ford Hall and the Plaza are go­ing to be open. With the ac­tiv­i­ties in the Plaza and into the J.W. Mar­riott, we should be able to do some­thing that no­body else in this county should be able to do and that’s take this cham­pi­onship to an­other level.”

DAVID BLOOM/POST­MEDIA NEWS

Hockey Canada pres­i­dent and COO Scott Smith talks to re­porters dur­ing yes­ter­day’s news con­fer­ence to an­nounce that the 2021 IIHF world ju­nior hockey cham­pi­onship will be held in Ed­mon­ton and Red Deer, Alta.

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