'Halifax is ready': Countdown is on to world junior hockey championship
Event is forecast to bring big economic boost to region
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.
"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.
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.