USA Hockey has selected the University of North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena as host of the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. The 10-nation tournament features the world’s best players under 20 years of age. The selection of Grand Forks and the awarding of the event to USA Hockey are pending official approval by the IIHF General Congress in June.
“Following an exhaustive and comprehensive bid evaluation process, our selection committee left Grand Forks fully convinced and confident that the event organizers will oversee a successful and first-class tournament,” said USA Hockey president Walter Bush. “The World Junior Championship is a crown jewel within international hockey circles and serves as a launching pad for nearly all of the top players in the National Hockey League and Olympic Games.”
Engelstad Arena was completed in 2001 with two sheets of ice. It seats more than 11,800 spectators, features in-house television production capabilities, and is arguably the finest college hockey rink in the United States. The arena is slated to serve as the primary rink for tournament competition, but another 3,800-capacity facility (also to be named Ralph Engelstad Arena) is currently being raised in Thief River Falls, Minn. A one-hour drive from Grand Forks, this new two-sheet arena will also host games during the IIHF World Junior Championship.
In addition, the organizing committee plans to host an interactive fan festival at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Competition is set to begin in late December of 2004, with the bronze and gold medal games slated for the first week of January 2005.
“Hosting the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship satisfies one of the original purposes of Ralph Engelstad Arena — to grow into Junior-aged hockey divisions, which USA Hockey represents,” said Todd Berning, Engelstad Arena general manager. “Our approach will focus on providing accommodations, ticket sales, and corporate sponsorship and marketing consistent with a world-class event. We’re extremely pleased to be selected as the host site by USA Hockey and we will be preparing in anticipation of the World Junior Championship for the next two years.”
Grand Forks was chosen over two other finalist locations: Columbus, Ohio and Omaha, Neb. Five total bids were received by USA Hockey.
“We were extremely impressed by all of the bid applications that we received, particularly those of our eventual finalists,” said Doug Palazzari, executive director of USA Hockey. “But our decision came down to three primary factors in favor of Grand Forks: First, the uniquely superior quality and design of Ralph Engelstad Arena is tailor-made to suit this tournament. Second, there will be a high level of community excitement and commitment supplied by an area so rich in hockey tradition. And, finally, there is strong leadership in place with the host committee to ensure the execution of crucial business and marketing plans.”
Since its inception in 1977, the IIHF World Junior Championship has been held in the United States three times: 1982 in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, 1989 in Anchorage, Alaska, and 1996 in Boston. On Thursday, Canada will begin hosting the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the event travels to Finland in 2004. The United States has earned three medals in tournament history, claiming the bronze in both 1986 and 1992, and the silver in 1997.