Edmonton will host another major hockey event with no fans after the International Ice Hockey Federation confirmed Rogers Place will be the site of the 2021 world junior championship on Thursday.
The IIHF Council approved the Hockey Canada plan, which sees one of two planned cities for the 2021 event maintain hosting duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event originally was scheduled to be held in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., from Dec. 26, 2020 to Jan. 5, 2021.
Organizers now say the event will return to those two cities — with the hope of having fans — in 2022.
No tournament dates have been confirmed for the revamped 2021 event.
Rogers Place currently is hosting the final two rounds of the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs. Edmonton and Toronto served as co-hosts for the entire NHL post-season.
"This is a tough decision to have to take, but ultimately we did not have a choice," IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement.
"The health and safety of players, officials, and fans is our top priority. We were impressed with the presentation from the local organizing committee outlining how a potential bubble scenario would operate within Edmonton, and we are confident that we can follow the NHL's great example in creating a safe environment for teams to compete."
TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger adds that the travel plan will see three charters deliver European teams to Edmonton beginning in the second second week of December. He notes that intensive testing before those flights will be mandatory, followed by strict protocol and daily testing upon arrival in the Hub.
Hockey Canada approved of the decision to keep the event in Alberta for two years.
"These are extraordinary times, and we understand the world juniors will look different this year while being played in one venue with additional safety precautions," Hockey Canada president Tom Renney said in a statement.
Gothenburg, Sweden, which was slated to host the event in 2022, will now do so in 2024.
Novosibirsk, Russia, will host the 2023 event.
The IIHF says keeping the event in Canada, where the tournament traditionally has much higher attendance, in 2022 can help cover financial losses expected to occur in 2021.
"This solution will allow for the IIHF together with Hockey Canada to reduce the overall costs associated with putting on the 2021 tournament in a bubble environment," Fasel said.
"We asked a lot of our Swedish partners to make this adjustment in a short amount of time, but we needed their co-operation to save this tournament and make it possible for the world juniors to be delivered this year."
Organizers of the 2021 event say a competition bubble will isolate teams and tournament officials within the same Edmonton Ice District being used for the NHL.
The IIHF says there will be no promotion or relegation following the 2021 tournament.
Canada won the 2020 event in the Czech Republic.
Earlier on Thursday, the IIHF announced several tournament cancellations for the 2020-21 season, following the recommendations of its COVID-19 expert group.
With the exception of the 2021 World Junior Championship, all lower division tournaments in the men’s U20 category will be cancelled, as well as the 2021 U18 Women’s World Championship and all other tournaments in the women’s U18 category.
The IIHF cited "major concerns" over the ability of the event hosts to operate a tournament in a safe environment and without incurring potentially serious financial risks should the tournament be cancelled or a participant fall ill.
“Requiring each tournament hosts to operate a competition “bubble” is not a practical request for our lower-division tournament organizers, many of whom are already stretched financially from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said IIHF President René Fasel in a statement.
“The IIHF does not have the resources necessary to properly supervise the safe operation of these tournaments, so that the minimum requirements for COVID-19 health and safety can be met.”
Fasel added that other financial factors related to testing requirements for incoming players and officials, together with the current travel risks associated with organizing an international ice hockey tournament, could not be absorbed by either the IIHF or by the host organizer.
The IIHF added that the men’s U18 and senior tournaments remain on schedule for next spring, including the men’s senior and women’s’ World Championships.
Files from the IIHF were used for this report.