St. Louis was one of five finalists announced Monday by USA Hockey to play host to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, an annual event featuring many of the top amateur hockey players in the world.
The other finalists are Chicago, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Tampa.
If St. Louis is chosen, Scottrade Center would serve as host site for an event that features teams from 10 countries in a tourney held in late December and early January.
“We had interest of varying levels from more than a dozen entities,” USA Hockey spokesman Mike Bertsch said. “In the end, we’re extremely pleased with the group of finalists. The time and effort each put into the materials that were submitted is impressive and we look forward to continued conversations with each of the finalists.”
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Bertsch expects to announce the host city by the end of this year.
“We’ll likely further narrow the field in the next 60 days and then conduct in-person visits before making a final decision,” he said.
Led by the St. Louis Blues of the NHL, the region has emerged as a thriving hub for amateur and professional hockey. Ten St. Louis natives have played or are currently playing in the NHL led by Blues players Paul Stastny and Chris Butler.
Many former Blues continue to live in the area after retiring from hockey, with players like Al MacInnis, Keith Tkachuk, Jeff Brown and many others serving as youth hockey coaches.
The metro-east produced a 2014 NHL draft pick in Swansea’s Connor Chatham, selected by the New Jersey Devils. Clayton Keller, who also grew up in the Belleville area, is one of the top scorers for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan and is considered a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft.
Effingham native Luke Opilka is a goalie chosen by the Blues in the fifth round of the NHL Draft last month.
St. Louisans Steve Cash and Billy Hanning play on the USA Hockey Paralympic team, while St. Louis native Jincy Dunne scored two goals, including the game-winner, for Team USA at the 2015 Under-18 Women’s World Championships.
St. Louis also has hosted the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four, the 2011 NCAA regional finals and will play host to the 2017 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four.
The local committee working to bring the World Junior Tournament to St. Louis includes Blues chairman Tom Stillman, Blues President and CEO Chris Zimmerman, former Blues stars Brett Hull and Tkachuk and Total Hockey founder Michael Benoit.
The 2016 World Junior Championships will be held in Helsinki, Finland, then will be played in Toronto and Montreal in 2017.