CALGARY, Alberta — As the two-week World Junior Hockey Championship winds down this weekend in Sweden, visionaries in Tampa hope to bring the tournament to town in the near future.
Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Sports Commission, said Friday preliminary talks have been held with the Tampa Bay Lightning and USA Hockey about the prospect of hosting the event, which features 10 international teams comprised of the best under-20 players in the world.
“We’ve started to lay the groundwork to learn more about the bid process,” Higgins said. “I’ve had some initial correspondence with USA Hockey, and we are still a ways off from the official bid process, but it’s definitely an event we would like to learn more about.”
The next tournament scheduled to be in the United States is the 2018 championship, which begins Dec. 26, 2017.
The bidding process for potential host cities will begin in the spring of 2015, with a final decision made in the fall of 2015, USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fisher said.
The United States has hosted the event four times (2011, 2005, 1996, 1989) since it started in 1977.
While the Forum would serve as the main venue for games, including the semifinal and championship games, a second venue is required. Germain Arena in Estero, home of the Florida Everblades in the East Coast Hockey League, is a likely candidate.
The Tampa area has hosted multiple Super Bowls, NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the 2012 NCAA men’s ice hockey championship. The 2015 Women’s Final Four, 2016 NCAA Frozen Four and 2017 NCAA football championship game will be in Tampa.
Higgins hopes the success of such events, particularly the Frozen Four, will resonate when the bidding process begins.
“The fact we were a non-traditional host (of the 2012 Frozen Four) and were able to be successful ... speaks directly to our community as a sports town, as well as the passion we have for hockey here,” Higgins said.