World on Winnipeg's doorstep

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

The world is coming back to Winnipeg.

Hockey Canada has awarded the 2011 and 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenges to Winnipeg, the first time it will be held in the same city in consecutive years.

"Winnipeg has a great history of hosting quality, quality events," said Dean McIntosh, director of marketing services and events for Hockey Canada. "We believe that going back-to-back is vital, it gives the community an opportunity to buy into the event. We've seen this at the last couple of events that it may take a few games before the community gets into it and understands how high the level of hockey really is. We're excited about going back-to-back."

The tournament features many of the top young players from North America and Europe and will first be held from Dec. 28, 2010 to Jan. 4, 2011. Dates for 2012 will be announced at a later date.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan come together to form Team Western, which will be the host team.

Preliminary round games will be played at the True North MoosePlex (which is under construction and slated to open in August of 2010), while the semifinals and medal round games move to the MTS Centre.

The main rink among the four sheets at the MoosePlex holds roughly 1,500 fans.

"The key impetus for the pursuit of the tournament is for the development of the facility and our ongoing relationship with Hockey Canada," said True North Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ludlow.

Hockey Canada is hoping Winnipeg can help raise the profile of the brand, much like it did with the 1999 World Junior Hockey Championship and 2007 IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship.

"Winnipeg has provided a springboard for a lot of our events," said McIntosh. "We see the property growing and we understand the hockey public has a better sense of what this event is all about."

Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods believes hosting an event of this magnitude has long-term benefits.

"Anytime you have a chance to bring a tournament like this, it augers well for the development of our programs, gives us credibility and allows us to showcase the level of hockey and talent that is in the branch," said Woods. "You're getting some of the top players in the world at that particular age group. It's pretty exciting."

Ludlow said the economic benefits for the community are estimated to be at least $5 million per tournament.

Manitoba Moose governor Mark Chipman is hopeful the relationship with Hockey Canada will continue to strengthen and that True North could host future world juniors or IIHF World Hockey Championships down the road.

"We'll continue to pursue those types of events," said Chipman.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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