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
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.”
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.