Two Canadian teams and four international squads make up the two groups of three teams that will face off in the 11th edition of the tournament Dec. 11-17 at R.J. Lalonde Arena of the Bonnyville District & Centennial Centre.
Canada East will be the first Canadian team to see action, taking on the Czech Republic in the tournament-opener on Sunday, Dec. 11, while Canada West will make its debut that night when it faces Switzerland.
“It’s such an honour for our community to host this tournament for our hockey fans,” said Robb Hunter, co-chair of the 2016 World Junior A Challenge. “We’ve been working for months with a dedicated group of volunteers and we’re looking forward to the puck-drop.”
Defending champion Team Canada West plays in Group A with Russia and Switzerland, while Team Canada East is in Group B with the Czech Republic and the United States.
“The CJHL is extremely proud and excited to bring this event to Bonnyville,” said Kirk Lamb, president of the CJHL. “The community, the volunteers and the fans will create an excellent atmosphere for the teams and will be treated to exceptional competition in return.”
Previous editions of the World Junior A Challenge have generated more than $3 million in total economic activity in the host community and province. In addition to the local economic boom, net profits from the event stay in the community to benefit youngsters playing the game at a grassroots level.
This is the second time the event is held in an Alberta community since the tournament’s inception; Camrose hosted the World Junior A Challenge in 2008.
“We are very pleased with our partnership with the CJHL that allows its players to compete at this high-calibre tournament and represent Canada,” said Dean McIntosh, senior director of events and properties for Hockey Canada. “With its 125 communities, the CJHL is a strong part of the Canadian hockey fabric from coast to coast to coast. By hosting events like the World Junior A Challenge collaboratively with the CJHL, we are able to leave a strong legacy, raise funds for local hockey programs, and create an economic impact in excess of $3 million in the host community.”
The first-place team in each group will receive a bye to the semifinals on Thursday, Dec. 15, with the second-place and third-place teams crossing over for the quarter-finals Wednesday, Dec. 14. The losers of the semifinals will meet for the bronze medal on Friday, Dec. 16, while the winners will face off for gold on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Since the first World Junior A Challenge in 2006, more than 260 NHL draft picks have played in the tournament, including 36 first-round selections (Beau Bennett, Brock Boeser, Alexander Burmistrov, Dennis Cholowski, Joe Colborne, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dante Fabbro, Nikita Filatov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Denis Guryanov, Tyson Jost, Dmitri Kulikov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Elias Lindholm, Hampus Lindholm, John Moore, Vladislav Namestnikov, Riley Nash, Valeri Nichushkin, Dylan Olsen, David Pastrnak, German Rubtsov, Ilya Samsonov, Jordan Schmaltz, Nick Schmaltz, Jaden Schwartz, Brendan Smith, Evgeny Svechnikov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kyle Turris, Andrei Vasilevski, Jakub Vrana, Alexander Wennberg, Nail Yakupov and Jakub Zboril).
Canada West won gold at the first two tournaments, in 2006 and 2007, and also took the top prize in 2011 and 2015. The team also earned silver in 2008, 2009 and 2012, and won bronze in 2013. Canada East earned silver medals in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011, and claimed bronze in 2008.