With the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in the books and a fifth consecutive gold medal safely around the necks of Canada’s National Junior Team, the focus now shifts to Saskatchewan, which will host the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship next December/January.
With that in mind, the Hockey Canada Insider sat down with 2010 World Junior general manager Rob Jones to find out just how preparations are coming for the return of the World Juniors to the Prairies.
Q: How are preparations coming for the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship?
RJ: We began work as soon as we won the bid for the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in July 2008. Given the short timeframe and the huge magnitude of this event, we have been working full out since then. Our first step was putting out organizational structure in place – as we have split the round-robin games between the two cities, we have mirrored the organizational structure in both cities. Once the organizational structure was in place, we had an initial meeting with Hockey Canada in September 2008 with both the Regina and Saskatoon committees. This session helped jump start the efforts of our committees to develop plans to implement the work that needs to be done. Since we returned from Ottawa the pace has really shifted into overdrive. Our volunteer committees are busy reviewing Ottawa’s results and we expect to begin recruiting the other 2,500 volunteers in early March. So the work continues to be nonstop, but still very exciting and challenging. We can only imagine the excitement that lies ahead of us!
Q: What did the Saskatchewan group learn from Ottawa that could help improve the 2010 tournament?
RJ: The Ottawa host committee put on a fabulous tournament and were absolutely the best hosts we could have wished for. They welcomed us everywhere and allowed us to participate in all aspects of the event. Ottawa set the bar high and all Canadians should take a great deal of pride in how the tournament was run and how teams and guests were treated. As for areas of improvement, we are putting our Saskatchewan hospitality to the test and invite everyone to ‘Come for the Hockey, Stay for the Party’. Perhaps 31 games with the enthusiasm and fun of a Saskatchewan Roughriders game would be a great place to begin putting our unique Saskatchewan stamp on the World Juniors.
Q: What are the major issues facing the 2010 host committee?
RJ: Without a doubt, the compressed time frame. We have at least 18 months less than past host cities have had. As well, the IIHF World Junior Championship has grown into something massive in this country, and it will stretcj our facilities to the maximum.
Q: What can people traveling to Saskatchewan for the 2010 tournament expect to see that other World Juniors in Canada have not offered?
RJ: For those who have experienced a Western Canadian Brier Patch at our country’s national men’s curling championship, it was Saskatchewan who launched the Brier Patch to what it has become today, and that same enthusiasm and fun and Saskatchewan hospitality will take place at the WorldFest event in both Regina and Saskatoon. Our volunteers will be some of the warmest and most enthusiastic people that visitors to our province will ever meet. The venues are electric, and the atmosphere will be electric from Day 1.
Q: With buildings in Saskatoon and Regina unable to seat what buildings in Ottawa, Vancouver, etc. have sat in the past – meaning smaller crowds – what will make the 2010 tournament stand out?
RJ: The people. Take the excitement and exuberance found at any event our province has hosted – whether it is the Juno Awards or national curling championships – and combine it with good old fashioned Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, and you have an event that will not be forgotten.