‘We’re disappointed’: Red Deer officials, business owners sad to be shut out of World Juniors

The 7000 seat Peavey Mart Centrium in Red Deer will be empty this August as the pucks drop for the World Junior Hockey Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

In 2018, it was announced that Red Deer and Edmonton would co-host the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship.

However, in 2020, the IIHF and Hockey Canada made the decision to host the tournament only in Edmonton using a “bubble” model due to the pandemic. The City of Red Deer was told it would host next year’s tournament.

“The community was so excited,” said Red Deer’s Deputy Mayor Cindy Jefferies.

“Red Deer was ready to host and prepared to welcome visitors in to watch games.”

Then, in December of last year, the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship was postponed, mid-event, due to multiple COVID-19 outbreaks. At the time, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) determined that “the sportive integrity of the event had been compromised.”

Over the past weekend, the IIHF announced that the rescheduled tournament will take place from Aug. 9 to 20, and “Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta is foreseen as venue for all games,” with no mention of any games taking place in Red Deer.

“The first reaction is obviously disappointment,” said Jefferies.

The tournament was expected to generate more than $20 million in economic activity for the city.

“Hosting events is one of Red Deer’s prime targets for trying to bring economic activity to the community,” she said.

“It certainly would have helped us recover from COVID a little quicker.”

The championship would have also brought some much needed revenue for Westerner Park, the non-profit organization that runs the Peavey Mart Centrium. Westerner Park, which hosts Red Deer’s largest events, like the Canadian Finals Rodeo, has seen cancellation after cancellation during the pandemic.

Mike Olesen, Westerner Park’s Chief Executive Officer, said the tournament would have produced more than $2 million in gross revenue for the organization.

“Just from a rental, food and beverage, and direct spend, not to mention things such as ticketing and 50/50 revenue,” said Olesen. “The event is significant.”

Red Deer not hosting the tournament is also a gut punch to local businesses who were looking forward to the boost in tourism in a potentially post-restriction environment.

“The negative impact it has on the revenues for hotels, for restaurants…is significant,” said the Downtown Red Deer Business Associations Chair Brandon Bouchard.

“We’re disappointed. I’m still not quite certain or clear as to why they made that decision.”

Local officials said while Red Deer missed an opportunity to showcase itself on the global stage, they’re looking forward to the events that will be hosted in the city in the future.

“We got a pretty full slate of summer events and we would have been better with it, but I think, with the other contingent we have, it’s okay. We’ll be just fine,” said Olesen.

“We want people to ultimately know that Red Deer is much more than just a gas stop. We want people to come into the city, and visit our beautiful downtown, and explore our city because there’s a lot to see and do. We just got to keep pumping our own tires and show the rest of the province, and the country, what we have to offer, and we’ll welcome visitors in every capacity we can,” said Bouchard.

City officials are unsure why Red Deer was left out of the tournament and the IIHF has not provided any explanation.

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