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Toronto and Regina-Saskatoon both formally bid to stage world junior tourneys @NHLdotcom

TORONTO - Now the real fun begins for Bob Nicholson and Hockey Canada.

The final two of five Canadian bid groups interested in staging the 2010 and 2012 world junior hockey championships made their formal presentations Tuesday. Nicholson, the president of Hockey Canada, said the selection committee has plenty to ponder before rendering its recommendations to Hockey Canada's board of directors next month.

"The last two days I was a pretty proud guy sitting there listening to all of it," said Nicholson. "I'm not sure in the next while if I'm going to be that proud.

"I'm going to be digging through trying to get more information to try and make the right decision. It's going to be an unbelievable task for us."

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, pitching for the 2012 tournament, as well as the Regina-Saskatoon group looking for either the 2010 or 2012 event, made their formal pitches Tuesday. On Monday, the Calgary-Edmonton (2012 tournament), Winnipeg-Brandon (2010) and Halifax-Moncton (2010) bid committees all put their best foot forward.

"Any decision we make is going to be a good one, you can't go wrong," Nicholson said. "But there's also going to be huge disappointment.

"We've got to handle that very carefully because we want these cities to be back again."

Being able to follow Hockey Canada's economic blueprint will be an important criteria for the winning bids. But Nicholson said that won't be only factor taken into consideration.

"They (five bid cities) all want to leave a legacy to make the game better," he said. "From Hockey Canada's point of view that's pretty neat to see how that's changed from just an event to leaving a footprint for many years to come."

Ottawa will host the 2009 tournament as Canada looks to capture a fifth straight world junior title. Switzerland was to stage the 2010 event but withdrew.

The 2011 tournament will be held in the U.S., with the 2012 event returning to Canada.

Canada last hosted the world junior hockey championship in 2006 in Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna, B.C.

While the Regina-Saskatoon group is bidding for either 2010 or 2012, bid manager Hugh Vassos said 2010 would be ideal.

"We'd like to see 2010 because we're ready to go," he said.

If the Regina-Saskatoon bid is successful, games will be split between the two cities. But Vassos says staging the tournament will be a provincial effort.

"We pitched a Saskatchewan bid," he said. "Yes, there will be a pool in Regina and another in Saskatoon.

"But we plan on incorporating some of the smaller communities in Saskatchewan that have Western Hockey League and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League teams. We're going to bring it to the province and have some fun with it and we're going to do things all over Saskatchewan that are going to make Hockey Canada proud and open the eyes of the IIHF."

Bob Hunter, an executive vice-president with MLSE, said his group's presentation hinged on two main points.

"No. 1, make it a great tournament for Hockey Canada and hit their economic plan," he said. But secondly, build a legacy program that is actually going to get back down to the grassroots level, with a lot of investment.

"Refurbishing arenas is part of the profits and taking hockey exchange equipment programs to a whole new level because again of the new population in this city where over 50 per cent of the people were not born here."

And it's Toronto's ethnic diversity that Hunter believes enhances its bid.

"The difference in some of the other small cities is when Latvia plays, they don't get a lot of people because Latvia playing Belarus doesn't mean a lot." he said. "But in this market, there are a lot of Latvian people and I'm sure there are a lot of people from Belarus.

"And so the diversity and size of ethnic population here really, we think, spells the formula for success."

So too, Hunter said, will be holding tournament games at both the Air Canada Centre and nearby Ricoh Coliseum as well as having all junior teams practising at the Lakeshore Lions Arena. All three venues are close to one another, making it easy for players and fans alike to get back and forth.

"The big thing here is proximity," he said. "The bus ride between the hotels and Ricoh is minimal and even the Lakeshore Lions practice facility, which will host all the practices, is a 10-minute bus ride in non-rush hour.

"We think fan support here is one of the biggest highlights. They (Hockey Canada) are concerned, as they would be, that there's a lot going on in Toronto and how much relevance will junior hockey have? What we kept repeating was they don't know how big this event can be in this marketplace. It's a world event for Canada but when it's held here, it sort of rules the country."

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