COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Hockey today announced it has selected Ralph Engelstad Arena and the University of North of Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., to serve as host for the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. The 10-nation tournament features the world’s best players under 20 years of age. The selection of Grand Forks and the awarding of the event to USA Hockey are pending official approval by the IIHF General Congress in June.
The announcement was made by USA Hockey President Walter L. Bush, Jr. (Edina, Minn.), USA Hockey Vice President & International Council Chairperson Ron DeGregorio (Salem, N.H.), USA Hockey Executive Director Doug Palazzari (Colorado Springs, Colo.), and USA Hockey Senior Director, International Administration Art Berglund (Colorado Springs, Colo.).
“Following an exhaustive and comprehensive bid evaluation process, our selection committee left Grand Forks fully convinced and confident that the event organizers will oversee a successful and first-class tournament,” said Bush. “The World Junior Championship is a crown jewel within international hockey circles and serves as a launching pad for nearly all of the top players in the National Hockey League and Olympic Games.”
Ralph Engelstad Arena was completed in 2001 with two sheets of ice. It seats more than 11,800 spectators, features in-house television production capabilities, and is arguably the finest college hockey rink in the United States. The arena is slated to serve as the primary rink for tournament competition, but another 3,800-capacity facility (also to be named Ralph Engelstad Arena) is currently being raised in Thief River Falls, M.N. A one-hour drive from Grand Forks, this new two-sheet arena will also host games during the IIHF World Junior Championship.
In addition, the organizing committee plans to host an interactive fan festival at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Competition is set to begin in late December of 2004, with the bronze and gold medal games slated for the first week of January 2005.
“Hosting the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship satisfies one of the original purposes of Ralph Engelstad Arena — to grow into Junior-aged hockey divisions, which USA Hockey represents,” said Todd Berning (Grand Forks, N.D.), General Manager of the facility. “Our approach will focus on providing accommodations, ticket sales, and corporate sponsorship and marketing consistent with a world-class event. We’re extremely pleased to be selected as the host site by USA Hockey and we will be preparing in anticipation of the World Junior Championship for the next two years.”
Grand Forks, N.D., was chosen over two other finalist locations: Columbus, Ohio and Omaha, Neb. Five total bids were received by USA Hockey.“We were extremely impressed by all of the bid applications that we received, particularly those of our eventual finalists,” said Palazzari. “But our decision came down to three primary factors in favor of Grand Forks: First, the uniquely superior quality and design of Ralph Engelstad Arena is tailor-made to suit this tournament. Second, there will be a high level of community excitement and commitment supplied by an area so rich in hockey tradition. And, finally, there is strong leadership in place with the host committee to ensure the execution of crucial business and marketing plans.”
Since its inception in 1977, the IIHF World Junior Championship has been held in the United States three times: 1982 in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, 1989 in Anchorage, Alaska, and 1996 in Boston. On Thursday Canada will begin hosting the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the event travels to Finland in 2004. The United States has earned three medals in tournament history, claiming the bronze in both 1986 and 1992, and the silver in 1997.
Many of the NHL’s top American-born stars skated for Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship, including Jeremy Roenick (Philadelphia Flyers), Chris Chelios (Detroit Red Wings), Brian Leetch (New York Rangers), Mike Modano (Dallas Stars), John LeClair (Philadelphia Flyers) and Keith Tkachuk (St. Louis Blues).
“No other event brings together the best young players from the entire international hockey community like the World Junior Championship,” said Art Berglund (Colorado Springs, Colo.), USA Hockey Senior Director of International Administration. “The Grand Forks hockey community has clearly demonstrated its full support of this bid-to-host. These key grassroots efforts, combined with a close proximity to Canada, will combine to make the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship the top sporting event in the area at that time.”