Preparations for world juniors in Moncton 'fast and furious,' says organizer
The puck drops for the first official game of the tournament at noon on Boxing Day
Events have begun in Moncton leading up to the world junior men's hockey championship.
A pep rally was organized for late Monday afternoon in the plaza outside the Avenir Centre, coinciding with the official announcement of the Team Canada roster and presentation of team members.
"It'll be probably the only opportunity fans will get to be that close to the team," said Bill Whalen, co-chair of the "Team Moncton" organizing committee.
About 30 minor hockey teams are expected to be among those in attendance for the pep rally, he said.
Minor hockey and ringette players and thousands of students from local schools were also on hand for the final Team Canada selection camp and a couple of exhibition games against an all-star Atlantic University Sport team in recent days at the Avenir Centre.
Team Canada doesn't have any games in Moncton during the actual tournament, which is being co-hosted by Halifax, but it does have two more exhibition games in the city, Dec. 19 and 21, against Switzerland and Slovakia.
Excitement seems to be building, said Whalen, who described preparations as "fast and furious."
Normally a host city has two years to plan for this tournament, but in this case Moncton only had 3.5 months after the International Ice Hockey Federation cancelled plans to hold it in Russia.
'An enormous amount of co-ordination'
A strong team of volunteers signed on to the effort, he said.
Whalen has been touring the tournament cup around the region for promotion.
"My life has been like the song. I've been everywhere, man."
About 500 people turned out to take their picture with the cup at the Moncton Hospital last week, he said.
"I think this is a really special thing," said Shane Porter, manager of venues with the Department of Recreation, Culture and Events for the City of Moncton.
"It's not too often you get to host the world like this," he said.
Co-hosting with Halifax has taken "an enormous amount of co-ordination," said Porter.
But "everybody rallied together to make this happen," he said, and "so far, everything's been going very, very well."
The organizing committee has been co-ordinating with volunteers, Hockey Canada, the city's public works and bylaw enforcement departments and the RCMP, "to make sure that we make downtown safe and comfortable."
A lot more people than usual can be expected in the downtown area during this Christmas season, said Porter.
He hopes that will be good news for hotels and restaurants, but it also requires some special planning.
The tournament is "Canadian mainstay," he said, "but it does occur during the holidays. So we have to make sure that we've got people on call."
The puck drops for the first official game of the tournament at noon on Boxing Day.
All week long, the games that are taking place in Moncton and Halifax will be shown on big screens in the plaza outside the Avenir Centre, for anyone who isn't able to be in the rink.
A "spectacular" event is planned for the New Year's Eve, said Whalen.
There will be skating on the Ian Fowler Oval and live music throughout the day.
Moncton's "marquee pool game" is U.S. vs Finland at 5 p.m. Dec. 31. Then Canada plays Sweden at 7:30 p.m. in Halifax.
Immediately following that game on the big screen, the Mellotones will take to a stage on Main street, which will be closed to traffic.
A countdown is planned for midnight followed by fireworks from the riverfront that are expected to be visible throughout the downtown.
Whalen hopes it will be the blueprint for a new tradition in the city.
With files from Information Morning Moncton