Shortly after the IIHF announced that all lower-tier World Junior tournaments would be cancelled for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they today announced that the 2021 World Juniors Top Division will now be hosted in a “bubble” in Edmonton, which is currently hosting the 2020 NHL playoffs in a similar bubble, with the 2022 World Juniors to now be hosted jointly by Edmonton and Red Deer, ideally in front of fans.
With the shift, Gothenburg, Sweden will now host the 2024 tournament, after being penciled in to host the 2022 tournament originally, with 2023 set to be played in Omsk and Novosibirsk, Russia. The IIHF also confirmed that no junior teams would be promoted or relegated for the 2021 World Juniors season, meaning that Austria will remain at the Top Division and return to Alberta for two consecutive years.
All games will now be hosted within Edmonton’s Rogers Place, which has successfully hosted now four rounds of the NHL playoffs, and is set to host the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals starting next week, going nearly two months without a single positive COVID-19 case within the bubble. Working with the Canadian government, Hockey Canada will ensure that all nine visiting teams are cleared to enter Canada, who, with tournament officials, will remain isolated from the general public and play games in an empty Rogers Place.
Not the ideal scenario by any means, but seeing meaningful international hockey competitions, even if behind closed doors, is a welcome change compared to the numerous cancellations that have been made over the past six months due to the pandemic.