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