The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship will be played entirely at Rogers Place in Edmonton without fans in attendance, a secure-zone bubble similar to what the NHL is using for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The tournament will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5. The IIHF initially was going to use Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta as joint hosts.
"This is a tough decision to have to take, but ultimately we did not have a choice," IIHF president Rene Fasel said Thursday. "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."
Ten teams will take part in the 2021 WJC. Group A in the preliminary round will consist of Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany. Group B features Russia, Sweden, the United States, the Czech Republic and Austria. Group B was scheduled to play its preliminary-round games at Westerner Park Centrium in Red Deer.
A new schedule will be announced at a later date. Canada will enter as the defending champion after winning the 2020 tournament. Alexis Lafreniere, the projected No. 1 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, was named best forward.
"A tremendous amount of work has been put into the planning of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, and we appreciate the IIHF's consideration of our hosting proposal for the event," Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney said. "Hockey Canada believes it will be able to host a safe and successful event for all participants and the community at large this year by following strict safety protocols set forth by the appropriate health authorities. 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. We have no doubt that passionate hockey fans everywhere will still be able to enjoy this annual holiday tradition through complete event coverage from our broadcast partners, TSN and RDS, and we look forward to hosting this prestigious event this December in Edmonton."
The IIHF announced that the 2022 WJC will be hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer, with the hope that fans will be able to attend. That tournament had been scheduled for Sweden, which will now host the 2024 WJC.
"Although the World Juniors will look and feel different for the athletes and staff that will be selected to represent Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, we are grateful to be able to compete on home ice as Canada's National Junior Team prepares to defend the gold medal in Edmonton," said Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada senior vice-president of national teams. "We also look forward to returning to the cities of Edmonton and Red Deer in 2022, as we know both communities and all event partners will deliver a world-class experience to players, teams, fans and volunteers alike. As we prepare to compete in consecutive tournaments on home ice, Hockey Canada extends its appreciation to the Canadian Hockey League for its support of the National Junior Team and the IIHF World Junior Championship."
The 2023 WJC remains scheduled to be played in Russia.
The IIHF also announced the cancelation of five lower-level under-20 tournaments. Because of that, there will be no relegation or promotion from the 2021 WJC.