Chicago Blackhawks: World Junior Hockey Bid Placed

The Chicago Blackhawks have turned the Windy City into a hockey mecca once again, with three Stanley Cups in the last six years.

They want to take that a step further in the near future by trying to bring a major international tournament to Chicago in 2018.

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Late last week, Blackhawks’ chairman Rocky Wirtz formally submitted a bid to the International Ice Hockey Federation for the Blackhawks, on behalf of the city of Chicago, to host the 2018 U-20 World Junior Hockey Championships.

The championships are already guaranteed to be held in the United States in 2018. Thus far, Tampa Bay (coincidentally the Blackhawks’ opponent in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final) is the only other city to submit a bid, but Pittsburgh, Detroit and Buffalo have shown interest in doing so.

Buffalo was the last American city to host the championships, when it did so back in 2011. The United States team finished third that year, and last took home gold in 2013, when the tournament was held in Ufa, Russia.

Team Canada is this year’s defending champion, after winning gold on home soil, with the cities of Montreal and Toronto co-hosting the 2015 tournament (they will also do so in 2017).

A quick glance at the Blackhawks’ current roster yields lots of World Juniors experience, from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in the past, to Teuvo Teravainen more recently after he captained Finland to gold in the 2014 tournament.

As part of the package, Wirtz has also expressed interest in building a practice facility closer to the Blackhawks’ home at the United Center. The Blackhawks currently practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West, which opened in 2010. Though the timing would suggest so, the proposed new arena reportedly would not act as the second arena for the tournament.

Capacity-wise, the Allstate Arena, home of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, would be the front-runner, with room for more than 16,500 fans. Other possibilities for the secondary arena include the Edge Ice Arena (3,000 seats), and the 10,000-seat BMO Harris Bank Arena in Rockford, home to the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

Though no details about a proposed arena have been released yet, one could point to the MTS Iceplex in Winnipeg, and believe something similar, though smaller, is on the way in Chicago. The IcePlex, which opened just months after Johnny’s IceHouse in 2010, has four NHL-sized arenas, including one with seating for up to 1,350.

Besides giving the tournament a home, a new Blackhawks practice facility would help fuel the growth of minor league hockey in the Chicagoland area after the Blackhawks’ recent success has caused a boom for the big league version.

If Chicago’s bid is in fact a winner, it will be the second major hockey tournament coming to the city in less than a year. The NCAA’s Frozen Four is coming to the United Center April 6-8, 2017.

Wirtz’s quest to bring international hockey isn’t done with the 2018 Junior Championships bid, reportedly. Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune also reported that Wirtz has expressed interest in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, which is expected to replace NHL involvement in Olympic ice hockey.

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