2021 wjc red deer city hall

Red Deer will be ready

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Red Deer from co-hosting the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, but the city already has its sights set on 2022

Jason La Rose
January 3, 2021

It’ll happen a year later than expected, but the hockey world is coming to Red Deer.

The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to the Alberta city sharing hosting duties for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship with Edmonton, but with the mid-September announcement that the 2021 World Juniors would be played in a bubble came news that Edmonton and Red Deer will once again co-host in 2022.

“We’re grateful for our partnership with Hockey Canada, and we're very thankful that we can extend that partnership into next year,” says Mayor Tara Veer. “We look forward to welcoming the international hockey community in 2022 and have that to look forward to when we return to community life as we once knew it.”

Despite missing out on the holiday hockey tradition itself, Red Deer still found a way to be part of the journey to this year’s tournament, playing host to Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp beginning Nov. 16.

Unfortunately, the pandemic left its mark on camp, and the 60+ players and staff were quarantined in their rooms at the Cambridge Hotel for 14 days in the midst of tryouts.

That’s when the community stepped up, making sure the campers had what they needed to make the best of their time in isolation.

While the 12-month delay in hosting the World Juniors is disappointing, it will allow the city to enhance the plans that were originally in place for the 2021 tournament.

At the top of that list is the continued upgrading of the Westerner Park Centrium. The 30-year-old facility got a $3-million makeover that included updated dressing rooms, a modernized LED score clock and signage, and new seats. That project was completed in time for the start of selection camp.

With another year to work with, it’s on to phase two.

“We really had a responsibility to look after that key infrastructure asset in our community,” Veer says. “And we really used the World Juniors preparation as an opportunity to modernize and to improve the fan experience at a well-used community amenity. [The move to 2022] does allow us the time to do that second tier of modernizations that we had hoped to get done.”

And then there’s the community aspect. Veer is quick to highlight the recent hosting successes for Red Deer, including the 2016 Memorial Cup, 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (which was shared with Edmonton) and 2019 Canada Winter Games.

With the world hopefully clear of the pandemic by the time December 2021 rolls around, the World Juniors will be a prime opportunity to once again shine the spotlight on the city, its people and its love of the game.

“We will have an even newer appreciation for how important it is for us to come together. Not just to celebrate Team Canada and the national unity that comes from supporting the Maple Leaf on the ice, but ultimately, our being able to finally come together for something that's so much bigger than ourselves.”

It was certainly a setback to not have the hockey world descend on Red Deer, but the search for the silver lining was an important part of 2020 – finding the light in the darkest of days.

For Veer, that meant more time at home with family over the holiday season, enjoying the games on television instead of attending function after function as part of her official duties.

“The holiday season was very unique for everyone,” she says. “But even though we weren't able to gather together as a community, many were still able to observe their time-honoured Boxing Day traditions, where they're with their loved ones, cheering on Team Canada. And so in that respect, our ability to be able to cheer on Team Canada is normal, and I think that all of us welcome those opportunities that seemed so rare in 2020.”

When the puck drops Wednesday at the gold medal game in Edmonton, it will mark 355 days until the start of the 2022 World Juniors. While so many things can happen in that time – 2020 proved that ten-fold – the focus is already firmly on making the most of a second chance.

“I can unequivocally say that because of the experience all of us have had, being socially isolated as a consequence of the pandemic, we enter 2021 with a new perspective and an even stronger impetus to do more and be better and to make the most of this incredible opportunity that we have to host World Juniors.

“By the time we welcome the tournament back next year, the community buy-in and participation will even surpass what I know that we would have achieved this year. And I think that's something to look forward to.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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