With the COVID-19 pandemic still being a major issue around the globe, the International Ice Hockey Federation is taking a similar approach that the National Hockey League has with its playoffs to hold the 2021 World Junior Championship.
The IIHF announced on Thursday that its council has approved a proposal to hold the 2021 World Juniors in a bubble environment in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at Rogers Place.
The 2021 event was originally supposed to be hosted by Edmonton, but have the city of Red Deer co-host the event. Both cities will now get the chance to co-host the event in 2022.
"This is a tough decision to have to take, but ultimately we did not have a choice," said IIHF President René Fasel 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."
Normally, the World Juniors tournament is scheduled to begin the day after Christmas with the opening of group play and conclude on Jan. 5 with the two medal games. However, with Rogers place being the only venue in use for the 2021 tournament, a change in scheduling will be announced at a later date.
The NHL has had great success with their bubble environment for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The league has had no positive COVID-19 cases in the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles in the seven-plus weeks that has been played.
The 2021 World Juniors is set to feature 10 teams split into two separate groups. Group A will feature the defending gold medalists and host nation Canada, as well as Finland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Germany. Group B of the tournament will feature Russia, Sweden, the United States, the Czech Republic and Austria.
With the cancellation of the men's 2021 U20 World Championship tournaments, except for the top-level in Edmonton, there will be no teams relegated from the 2021 World Juniors.
Sweden was set to host the 2022 World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, but with Edmonton and Red Deer now co-hosting the event that year, the tournament has been awarded to Sweden in 2024.