Preparations for World Juniors in Moncton are ‘fast and furious’ organizers say

Events have kicked off in Moncton ahead of the world junior men’s hockey championships.

A pep rally is planned for Monday at 5pm in the square outside the Avenir Center, to coincide with the official announcement of Team Canada’s rosters and presentation of team members.

“This is probably the only opportunity for fans to get that close to the team,” said Bill Whalen, co-chair of the “Team Moncton” organizing committee.

About 30 minor hockey teams are expected at the rally, he said.

Little hockey and ringette players and thousands of students from local schools also turned out for Team Canada’s final selection camp and several exhibition games against All-star Atlantic University Sport in recent days at the Avenir Centre.

Bill Whalen, co-chair of the Moncton Team organizing committee, is shown in front of a banner on Main Street with the tournament trophy. (Submitted by Bill Whalen)

Team Canada did not have any matches in Moncton during the actual tournament, which Halifax co-hosted, but did have two more exhibition games in the city, December 19 and 21, against Switzerland and Slovakia.

Excitement appears to be building, said Whalen, who described preparations as “fast and furious”.

Usually host cities have two years to plan the tournament, but in this case Moncton only had 3.5 months after the International Ice Hockey Federation abandoned plans to hold it in Russia.

‘A huge amount of coordination’

A strong team of volunteers signed off on the effort, he said.

Whalen has toured cup tournaments across the region for promotion.

“My life is like the song. I’ve been everywhere, man.”

About 500 people took their photos with cups at Moncton Hospital last week, he said.

“I think this is a really special thing,” said Shane Porter, venue manager in the Recreation, Culture and Events Department for the City of Moncton.

“It’s not very often you host a world like this,” he said.

Co-hosting with Halifax has taken “a huge amount of coordination,” said Porter.

But “everyone is coming together to make this happen,” he says, and “so far, things are going very, very well.”

The organizing committee has coordinated with volunteers, Hockey Canada, the city’s public works and law enforcement departments and the RCMP, “to ensure that we keep downtown safe and comfortable.”

Inside the building with big windows.  Many people gathered.  A large red jersey hung from the ceiling.
Inside Moncton’s Avenir Center on Sunday at a pre-tournament game. The puck fell for the tournament’s first official match at noon on Boxing Day. (Shane Magee/CBC)

More people than usual can be expected downtown this Christmas season, said Porter.

He hopes that will be good news for hotels and restaurants, but it also requires special planning.

This tournament is a “Canadian mainstay,” he said, “but it did happen over the holidays. So we had to make sure we had people on call.”

The puck fell for the tournament’s first official match at noon on Boxing Day.

Throughout the week, games taking place in Moncton and Halifax will be shown on big screens in the square outside the Avenir Center, for anyone who can’t be in the arena.

A “spectacular” event is planned for New Year’s Eve, Whalen said.

There will be skating at the Ian Fowler Oval and live music throughout the day.

Moncton’s “marquee pool game” is USA vs Finland at 5pm on December 31. Then Canada takes on Sweden at 7:30pm in Halifax.

Immediately after the game on the big screen, Mellotones will appear on the main street, which will be closed to traffic.

The countdown is planned for midnight followed by riverside fireworks expected to be seen across the city centre.

Whalen hopes this will become a blueprint for a new tradition in the city.

Hadwin Floyd

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