BUFFALO, N.Y. - Marcus Foligno remembers the 2011 world junior championships fondly, despite Canada's loss to Russia in the gold-medal game.
The tournament was held in Buffalo, which made it something of a showcase for him as a Sabres draft pick. But it didn't hurt that the arena was full of Canadian fans.
"It was a lot of red jerseys," Foligno said. "We knew it was in Buffalo and it was on American soil, but being part of Team Canada, we had a lot of Canadian fans and they showed their support big time."
Canadian fans will get that chance again in 2018 when the world juniors return to Buffalo. USA Hockey will make that announcement Friday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo beat out Pittsburgh and St. Louis for the right to host in 2018, a testament to the city's strength as a hockey market, its proximity to Canada and its experience at running major events, including the 2011 tournament.
"I thought they did a great job the first time," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday. "Looking back at that tournament, it was a big venue, great fan support. ... Close enough to Canada to have a great group of fans here. But it was pretty well full throughout the whole tournament."
A similar situation could occur in 2018, with First Niagara Center set to repeat as the main arena and the brand-new 1,800-seat HarborCenter rink serving as the secondary venue. A source told the Associated Press that Ralph Wilson Stadium will also host an outdoor game during the 2018 world juniors.
"That's pretty crazy," Foligno said. "I think if you're a 18-, 19-year-old, 17-year-old and you get to do that, that's very special."
That outdoor game will likely feature Canada against the United States. Pools for the tournament won't be determined until after the 2017 event in Toronto and Montreal, but the host nation can petition for one switch to make it happen.
Terry and Kim Pegula own the Sabres and Bills and have said they would like to host the 2018 Winter Classic on the 10th anniversary of the original one between Buffalo and the Penguins. Jan. 1 is a scheduled off day during the world juniors.
Canada won the 2015 world juniors on home ice in Toronto, ending a gold-medal drought that dated to 2009. A year removed from that victory, Sabres forward Sam Reinhart grinned ear-to-ear at the idea of Buffalo hosting in 2018.
"Obviously for it being in Montreal and Toronto, it's pretty close," Reinhart said. "I had a blast. It was one of the best times of my life. I remember watching it when it was in Buffalo and know how good the crowd can get."
Hockey Canada caught flak for ticket pricing particularly in Montreal last year, and president and CEO Tom Renney said recently the organization learned from that as it prepares to return in 2017.
The 2016 world juniors will take place in Helsinki.
The Pegulas and USA Hockey officials will be on hand to make the announcement Friday on the 18-yard line at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Reinhart knows from Bills games there how the crowd of 70,000 can get "rowdy," and that's expected to be the case for Canada against the U.S.
Even indoors five years ago it was crazy with 20,000 fans.
"A lot of Canadian fans came down to watch us, and I remember the U.S. versus Canada game, which was outstanding, it was loud the whole game," Foligno said. "It was something I'll never forget."
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