The World Junior Hockey Championship is one of the biggest sporting events in Canada. For pure fan interest, it rivals the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in the United States. Next year, Canada will host the World Juniors, and representatives for Hockey Canada and the IIHF promise it will be the best WJC event ever.
“This is a very special tournament to us,” said Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson. “Every time we host the event we take it to the next level.”
The Vancouver event in 2006 will set a precedence for playing games in four separate venues, something that has never happened in WJC competition before. “We’ll have to adopt a system to help deal with four separate venues,” said Stuart Ballantyne, General Manager of the 2006 WJC. “Keeping our attention to detail may be our most difficult task.”
Next year, games will be played in Kamloops, Kelowna and Vancouver, B.C. The Gold Medal game will take place on at the General Motors Place in Vancouver.
With so much attention given to junior hockey in Canada, Nicholson and Ballantyne agree that the 2006 World Juniors will out do any before it. “We are confident that every game, not only the Canada games, will sell out with every seat filled,” said Nicholson. “We look forward to achieving the goal of all 31 games selling out.”
With a year until the drop of the first puck, the task of getting things in order for the 2006 event is well under way. “A lot of work goes into this and every week it gets busier,” said Ballantyne. “We’ve learned a lot on this trip and will take some of this back with us when we go back to B.C.”
The reps were very impressed with the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the site of this year’s WJC. “We wish we could take the building home with us,” said Ballantyne. Nicholson added that, “When you look at a facility like this its world class. To see a facility like this makes us a bit jealous, to be honest.”
Canada has been given the task of hosting a World Junior Championship every three years. Questions swirled about maybe moving the WJC to Canada every other year or having the U.S. and Canada split the hosting of the World Juniors.
“That’s something that has been discussed in recent years,” said IIHF President Rene Fasel. “I would love to [bring the World Juniors to Canada] every year, but we are a large family and we have to share.”
The 2006 World Junior Championship will take place from Dec. 26 – Jan. in British Columbia, Canada.