The U-20 World Junior Hockey Championships is one of the most talked-about hockey tournaments in the world. Featuring the best Under-20 hockey players from around the globe, the World Juniors gives a glimpse into the future of professional hockey.
Normally starting on Boxing Day, the 2020-21 edition of the tournament was in jeopardy thanks to COVID-19. However, earlier today, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced that the tournament will be held in the Edmonton bubble without fans.
Currently, the NHL used Canadian cities Toronto and Edmonton to host their playoffs. Now situated in Edmonton for the Conference and Stanley Cup Finals, the IIHF is looking at a similar setup in Edmonton for their tournament.
The tournament was originally scheduled to be co-hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer, which will now happen in 2022.
As of Monday, the NHL has gone seven weeks without reporting a positive case of COVID-19 since 24 teams entered bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton.
“This is a tough decision to have to take, but ultimately we did not have a choice,” said IIHF President René Fasel in a statement.
The 2021 edition of the tournament will feature 10 teams split into two groups. Pool A will have Canada, Finland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Germany. Pool B will feature Russia, Sweden, United States, Czech Republic, and Austria.
Details in regards to travel and quarantine requirements for the 10 teams were not announced by the IIHF on Thursday.
No tournament dates have been confirmed for the revamped tournament. The NHL had players enter respective bubbles prior to the playoffs beginning. With this tournament featuring international players, expect some sort of quarantining prior to official play.
January 5, 2021, was the projected final date of the tournament. With how things have shifted, it will be interesting to see if the tournament is pushed back. Since 1996, the World Juniors have begun on December 26 every year.
The IIHF said that keeping the event in Canada in 2022 can help cover financial losses expected to occur in 2021. The tournament traditionally has much higher attendance in Canada than other participating countries.
Host nation Canada are the defending world champions, winning in 2020 in the Czech Republic. Austria will compete in the World Juniors for the first time since 2020 after being promoted to the highest tier of international junior hockey.