Ready for the world

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

The world's best female hockey players are coming to Winnipeg in 2007.

Although no one from Hockey Canada or the local bid group would verify it yesterday, a source confirmed to the Sun that Winnipeg has been awarded the 2007 IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship.

The tournament, which takes place in non-Olympic years, is tentatively scheduled for April 4-11, 2007, at MTS Centre.

Kirk Kuppers, president of the fledgling Manitoba Women's Junior Hockey League, believes the tournament will be a big boost to female hockey in the province, even though it's already growing by leaps and bounds.

"It's just fabulous for hockey, for Manitoba -- particularly the city -- and just great for our league," Kuppers said yesterday. "We're just into our second year, so that's wonderful news.

"Anything like this certainly will give it an added boost. It certainly brings the attention to women in hockey."

Toronto was the only other city that presented a bid to Hockey Canada on Dec. 8.

MTS Centre's capacity (15,015) likely had a lot to do with Winnipeg winning the right to host the event, considering Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum holds only about 10,000 spectators.

NO. 1 FACILITY

"We're operating the event out of the No. 1 facility in Winnipeg," Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods told the Sun on Dec. 7. "The other bid does not have that luxury."

Woods also told the Sun two weeks ago that Winnipeg had another thing going for it.

"It's quite possible that (a tournament in Toronto) could be going head-to-head with the Leafs during that time period," Woods said. "The Leafs could have three games scheduled during that week at home.

"That's a huge advantage for us."

Another thing that probably didn't hurt Winnipeg's chances was its financial guarantee to Hockey Canada, believed to be valued at more than $500,000.

Canada won the first eight world championships, but the U.S. snapped that streak last spring with a 1-0 shootout win in the final.

The national women's team currently features three Manitobans: Winnipeg's Jennifer Botterill and Sami-Jo Small, and Pilot Mound's Delaney Collins.

The women's worlds is the latest in a string of international events Winnipeg has hosted, including the 1999 Pan Am Games, the 1999 world junior hockey championship and the 2002 world curling championships.

"That's absolutely great news for women in hockey and Winnipeg," Kuppers said. "They're hockey fans."


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