Seeking a venue for the Canada/Russia Super Series in September, Hockey Canada called up their buddies at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg to host one of the four games that will take place on Canadian soil.
In an effort to re-spark the Canada/Russia rivalry that led to the eight-game '72 Summit Series, Hockey Canada and the Russian Hockey Federation created the Super Series that will feature the top junior-age players from each country.
After playing the first of four games in the eight-game set in Russia, the MTS Centre here in Winnipeg will play host to Game 5 on Sept. 4, before the series shifts west for the remaining three games.
"It's an honour to be selected and a privilege that Hockey Canada would think of us to host this event," said True North Sports & Entertainment spokesperson Scott Brown yesterday.
Hockey Canada feels Winnipeg and the MTS Centre is just too good of a venue to pass up for such a major event.
"Winnipeg has proven itself to be a fantastic host for Hockey Canada events," said Scott Smith, vice- president of operations for Hockey Canada.
Joining Winnipeg as hosts will be Saskatoon, Red Deer, Alta., and Vancouver. Winnipeg and Vancouver also hosted games in the '72 Summit Series.
"We're led to believe that certainly had something to do with us being chosen," Brown added.
Smith says the fact that all four games in the series will be played in Western Canada is only partly on purpose.
"We spent time across Canada looking for venues," he said. "Over the last 24 hours the decision was made that, given the dates available, these four locations would provide the best schedule."
And, the fact that the 2008 Men's World Championship will be held in Halifax and Quebec City and the 2009 World Junior's will be in Ottawa, it made even more sense to focus this event in the West.
The Canadian Hockey League is a partner of the event and all but one member of the 26-man Team Canada roster, which was also announced yesterday, plays in the CHL. Given the fact that Winnipeg is the only host city that doesn't have a major junior team, Brown says this event will bring a new level of hockey to the city.
"Winnipeg hockey fans will get a chance to see some different players that may not normally get to see," Brown said.
"We're pleased with the response we have gotten in the past when we've hosted this kind of event and we expect the same for this time around." When it comes to recent Hockey Canada events, Winnipeg hosted the 1999 World Juniors, exhibition games for the 2005 World Juniors that were in Grand Forks, N.D., and the World Women's Championship this past season. All of the games at these events involving Canada were played before capacity or close to capacity crowds.
While no Manitobans were named to the squad, there will be plenty of recognizable names wearing the Maple Leaf. That includes the likes of top prospects Kyle Turris, Angelo Esposito, Karl Alzner and Sam Gagner, who are all expected to go in the first round of this weekend's NHL Entry Draft. The consensus No. 1 prospect for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, John Tavares was also named to the team.
Of the three major junior leagues in the CHL, the Western Hockey League led the way with 13 players being chosen, followed by the Ontario Hockey League with seven players and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with five. Turris played last season with the Burnaby Express of the British Columbia Hockey League and will head to the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA next season.
After leaving Winnipeg, the series will hit Saskatoon the next night on Sept. 5 before going to Red Deer on Sept. 7 and GM Place in Vancouver on Sept. 9. The first two games of the series will be played on Aug. 27 and 29 in Ufa, Russia, while Games 3 and 4 are being held in Omsk, Russia on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
In '72 all four games in Russia were played in Moscow, while Montreal and Toronto hosted the other two games in Canada.
Team Canada will hold their training camp for the series in Toronto, starting Aug. 20. This will replace the summer development camp that Hockey Canada usually holds as part of the selection process for their world junior team.
Ticket information on all four games in Canada will be released in the next couple of weeks.