Nova Scotia

'Halifax is ready': Countdown is on to world junior hockey championship

Hundreds of people from across North America and around the world are starting to arrive in Halifax for the world junior hockey tournament that is about to get underway.

Event is forecast to bring big economic boost to region

Suzanne Fougere with Scotiabank centre is shown standing inside the arena with the ice surface behind her being prepared for the World Junior event.
Suzanne Fougere, executive vice-president of Events East Group, which runs Scotiabank Centre, describes the world juniors as the most significant event for the Scotiabank facility in the last decade. (Paul Poirier/CBC News)

Hundreds of people from across North America and around the world are starting to arrive in Halifax for the world junior hockey tournament that is about to get underway.

The best under-20 players representing 10 countries including Canada are competing at the event, which is being co-hosted by Halifax and Moncton, N.B.

Pre-tournament games have already been happening in other communities around the region. More action is taking place on Tuesday in Antigonish, N.S., where Austria take on Germany, and in Halifax where Czech Republic play against Latvia.

"Halifax is ready, Moncton is ready," said Grant MacDonald, the local event lead in Halifax. "We know both downtowns are going to be electric."

Two hundred volunteers have been recruited in each city to help run the event, which will see about 40 games played over the course of nearly three weeks.

Event organizer Grant MacDonald is shown standing at Halifax's Rogers Square where big TV screens are behind him that will be showing the games.
Grant MacDonald is pictured in downtown Halifax at Rogers Square, where games will be shown on the big screens. There will also be free activities inside the Halifax Convention Centre. (Paul Legere/CBC)

"It is a big undertaking and we're doing it in a rather accelerated timeline but the good thing is that we've got two excellent event communities," MacDonald said.

Halifax and Moncton were awarded the tournament after it was taken away from Russia in April over its invasion of Ukraine. The Russian team is also not allowed to compete.

Strong ticket sales

Fans have been quickly snapping up tickets for both Halifax and Moncton, guaranteeing packed crowds.

"Ticket sales have been very strong from the day that we released them and we're pleased we're at about 90 per cent capacity between both venues combined," MacDonald said, adding there are still some tickets available.

The venues have been preparing for a busy schedule, with Halifax's Scotiabank Centre often hosting two games in a day during the competition.

"The 2023 IIHF World Juniors is the most significant event we have hosted here in the last decade," said Suzanne Fougere, executive vice-president of Events East Group, which runs Scotiabank Centre.

A team of men are walking on the ice with a hose spraying water as they rebuild the ice surface at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax for the competition.
Crews have been painting new competition logos and rebuilding the ice surface at Scotiabank Centre to prepare for the tournament. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

The company has been preparing for the tournament for months, including by hiring extra staff.

"For a regular Mooseheads game, we would have 60 to 70 staff in the building," Fougere said. "For an event like this, it is about 150 people a game to stage the event."

Crews have been working to paint new competition logos on the ice and to rebuild its surface over the past few days.

Higher up in the arena, a steel platform is also being assembled for the event broadcaster.

$25M economic boost

Away from the arenas, fans are expected to bring business to local shops and restaurants at a time of year that's typically on the quieter side.

"We know it should generate for Halifax alone over $25 million in economic spinoffs," said Patrick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. "It's a very, very big event."

Hotels and restaurants downtown stand to benefit the most, with so many visitors in town, Sullivan said. 

The timing is welcome after a few challenging years due to the pandemic, he acknowledged.

New codes of conduct

Both provinces helping to fund the event have insisted on a number of measures, following the Hockey Canada scandal.

That organization's entire board stepped down earlier this year over its handling of multiple sexual abuse allegations.

The Nova Scotia government, which is providing $2 million for the tournament, declined an interview. But in a statement to CBC News, it said it has been made clear there is no tolerance for harassment or abuse at the tournament.

As part of its contribution agreement, all those representing Hockey Canada "are required to undergo training on preventing sexual and gender-based violence," the statement said.

Hockey Canada also issued an emailed statement to confirm "all players coaches and staff with Team Canada passed the enhanced character screening process, completed the enhanced mandatory sexual violence and consent training and signed the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport."

The statement also said a comprehensive off-ice supervision plan is in place as part of new enhanced team rules.

Scotiabank Centre hosts its first Canada pre-tournament game this Friday, with the home team playing Finland.

Canada plays its first official game of the tournament in Halifax on Boxing Day against Czech Republic.


Gareth Hampshire is an award-winning journalist who began his career with CBC News in 1998. He has worked as a reporter in Edmonton and is now based in Halifax.