Monday, 15 September 2014

IIHF World Championships comes to British Columbia for first time in 2016

As Canada gets the honor of hosting the IIHF Women’s World Championships in 2016, the venue shall shift to the Pacific coast for the first time in Canadian hockey history. Kamloops, British Columbia shall be the host city for the event as Canada looks to avenge its gold medal game loss from 2013 (the last time that Canada hosted the event).

Coincidentally, Kamloops had placed a bid to host the event in 2013, but lost out to Ottawa, Ontario’s bid. The six previous times that Canada hosted the IIHF Women’s Worlds, the province of Ontario hosted four times (1990, 1997, 2000, 2013). Interior Savings Centre and McArthur Island Sports and Event Centre shall host a total of 22 games during the event in 2016. 

Of note, the city of Kamloops does hold a connection to Hockey Canada’s newly appointed president and CEO, Tom Renney. Having once coached there, he led the Kamloops Blazers to the Memorial Cup in 1992. Kamloops becomes the second city in Western Canada to host the IIHF Worlds. The first occurred in 2007 when Winnipeg, Manitoba hosted the event, which ended in a gold medal triumph for Canada.

In the last few years, the province has begun to develop elite talent. One of Western Canada’s finest hockey academies, the Pursuit of Excellence is based in British Columbia. The Okanagan Hockey Academy, which featured 2010 Olympic gold medalist Gina Kingsbury as an assistant coach for several seasons, is also well-renowned.

A product of Okanagan Hockey Academy is Saanichton, BC’s Micah Hart, who was named captain of Canada’s Under-18 team in July 2014. Other home grown talent includes the likes of Brielle Bellerive, Alyssa Erickson and Hannah Miller, all teammates of Hart with Okanagan. Among the home grown stars competing at the Pursuit of Excellence include future NCAA stars such as Sarah Potomak and Lauren Spring. As a side note, Hart, Potomak and Spring were part of Canada’s gold medal winning roster at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds.

Heading into 2016, there will likely be some new faces on Canada’s roster, earning a chance to prove themselves. For Kamloops fans, the chance of homegrown talent such as Hart or Potomak or Spring donning the Canadian jersey would certainly be a feel-good story. In years past, there has not been a player from BC on the senior team, although it may change soon.

Kamloops shall have an opportunity to gain further relevance on the women’s hockey map as it hosts the Four Nations Cup in November 2014. The competing teams shall include Canada, the United States, Finland and Sweden.

With the event looming soon, it is possible that Charline Labonte may retire from Canada’s national team. Past interviews have seen her hint that Sochi may have been her swan song. It would certainly be a source of great excitement for Kamloops fans if Kimberly Newell was part of Canada’s roster for the event. Hailing from Vancouver, Newell is currently a starting goaltender with the Princeton Tigers.

Sandwiched in between Kamloops’ hosting of the Four Nations Cup and the 2016 IIHF Women’s Worlds shall find Europe hosting elite women’s hockey. Prior to 2016, the city of Malmo, Sweden shall serve as the host city for the 2015 edition of the IIHF Women’s Worlds. 

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