REGION OF WATERLOO – The Region of Waterloo has partnered with the City of London to host the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championships.
The joint bid would see matches played at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium and Budweiser Gardens in London for the tournament, which usually starts on Boxing Day and runs until early January.
The annual tournament, which features the best under-20 hockey teams from around the world, was originally scheduled to take place in Russia, but the country was stripped of its hosting rights last February after invading Ukraine .
This shift forced the International Ice Hockey Federation to shift gears. Hockey Canada has mobilized to accept submissions from potential cities.
“We were trying to keep quiet until we could announce something for sure,” said Allister Scorgie, athletic hospitality manager for the Region of Waterloo. “We submitted a proposal with London. It’s Hockey Canada’s decision and they work with whatever proposals they have on their plate. »
Ottawa, Quebec, Halifax-Moncton, Vancouver-Victoria and Regina-Saskatoon are other cities that have officially declared their interest in hosting the event, or that would be part of it.
Waterloo Region and London have a history.
The two centers, which are about an hour’s drive from each other, bid to co-host the 2006 world junior championships, but lost out to Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna.
London also entered the tournament three years ago in a joint bid with Windsor, but was again passed over, for Vancouver and Victoria.
Scorgie said Hockey Canada approached London last month and, after partnering with Waterloo Region, had about a week to submit an offer.
“I think Hockey Canada was looking for a small number of communities that they had worked with before that they thought might be interested,” he said. “There was a mutual interest between London and the Region of Waterloo to put something together. Everything is going pretty fast. »
Working with a partner is a necessity for the Region of Waterloo since two arenas are required to be successful in the tournament.
The Aud, home of the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, has a seating capacity of 7,777 while Budweiser Gardens, home of the London Knights, can seat 9,090. And while the two clubs are rivals on the ice, off the ice they are the assist leaders in the OHL.
“I think you have the two strongest markets in the OHL in London and Kitchener, or two of the strongest markets in the Canadian Hockey League, for that matter,” Scorgie said.
And that’s one of the selling points.
The proximity and rich history of junior hockey in each city also works in their favour.
“Why not host the best world junior event where junior hockey is played?” Scorgie said. “This is where junior hockey lives. The Rangers are the best ticket in town. Southern Ontario is the hub of junior hockey, probably the world.
According to the proposed offer, 16 matches would be played in London and 15 in Aud, while half of the 10 participating teams would remain in each city during the event.
Scorgie didn’t give details on the cost, other than to say the team is looking at different sources of funding, including sponsorship, ticket sales and help from the provincial government.
When London and Windsor made a hosting offer in 2019, it was reported that Windsor was willing to commit $400,000 while London would pay $600,000.
“The economic impact is huge,” Scorgie said. “You booked the Aud weeks ago. It would be a huge blow in the arm as we try to recover from COVID-19 and get the whole tourism sector back on its feet. »
Hockey Canada should pick a winning bid by the end of the month.
“It’s a bit of a shame that what’s happening with Russia and Ukraine is ultimately what led to the opportunity that presented itself,” Scorgie said. “It’s a sad situation that we’re trying to find homes for events because of a crisis like this.
“But we would be happy to do it and we would be happy to do it and I think the community would accept it if he came here.”