Camrose will have a hint of blue to go along with the red and white of Canada this December when the United States national junior team pays a visit to prepare for the world junior hockey championship that opens Dec. 26.
Team USA will be calling Camrose’s Edgeworth Centre home from Dec. 17-24 as it gears up for the tournament, training at the home of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Camrose Kodiaks and Augustana Vikings of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
An exhibition game between the U.S. and Switzerland will also be played at the four-year old Edgeworth Centre on Dec. 21.
While the process of selecting a training site was largely handled by Hockey Canada, for Jim Johannson, general manager of Team USA and USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations, there’s no doubt Camrose will provide everything needed.
“Hockey Canada organizes the camps, and what they really do is gather all the requests from the respective federations and then put it together so that it best fits the facilities they have available. They’ve always done a really first-class job of hosting all the teams, but certainly from USA Hockey’s perspective, it’s always been great when we’ve been up there for camp,” Johannson said.
“The facilities themselves, physically, are wonderful, and the nice part about being in a community the size of Camrose is that everything we need to do is close by, so we’re not spending a lot of time sitting in traffic or running around from one area to another.”
The Americans, along with Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark and Finland are in Group B, and will play all of their round-robin games at Rexall Place. The U.S.’s first game is on Boxing Day against Denmark.
Although the championship will be centred in Edmonton and Calgary – which will host Group A roundrobin play, as well as the gold-medal game – Johannson sees the trip to Camrose as a way of expanding the reach of the tournament.
“It’s really exciting for the outlying communities to have the teams that are going to be participating in the event be in their communities,” Johannson said.
“We did something similar in Buffalo (at last year’s championship) and had great experiences in some smaller cities outside Buffalo. I know we’ll have the same up in Alberta.”
After hosting the RBC Cup Canadian junior A championship this past spring, the Kodiaks are no strangers to putting on high-caliber hockey events and have already seen great interest from the community. “We’ve been inundated with phone calls from people interested in tickets to this event,” said Kodiaks assistant general manager Darcy Steen. “We’re talking about an event that was such a tremendous success sales-wise in Edmonton and Calgary, for it to branch out to these rural communities is just tremendous, and here in Camrose we’re just ecstatic to be a part of this special event.”
Along with their successful staging of the RBC Cup, the Kodiaks also hosted the World Junior A Challenge in 2008.
“Hockey Canada recognized that we put on a very good event for the RBC Cup,” Steen said. “The community in Camrose is very well respected for doing a good job with (hosting) curling events, and their past history with hockey events like the Viking Cup. A lot of that led to Hockey Canada having the confidence in us.”
Kodiaks season-ticket holders will have first access to tickets before seats go on sale to the general public on Tuesday. Tickets can be ordered through the Kodiaks office in the Edgeworth Centre, or online starting at noon Tuesday at www.hockeycanada.ca/tickets.
By Evan Daum, Edmonton Journal