St. Louis has been selected one of three finalists for the prestigious 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships as chosen by USA Hockey. Pittsburgh and Buffalo were the other finalists announced Tuesday.
With heavy input by the St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Sports Commission, the St. Louis region has emerged as a strong talent base for youth and amateur hockey and professional hockey.
Former Blues star and Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull is on the local committee working to bring the event to St. Louis, along with Blues President and CEO Chris Zimmerman, former Blues star and USA Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and Total Hockey founder Michael Benoit.
“We estimate that we would draw approximately 350,000 fans over the course of the tournament,” Zimmerman said Tuesday. “Along with our local fans we’re going to attract a lot of visitors, so we’re going to fill a lot of hotel rooms and a lot of restaurants. As far as a direct spending estimate, it’s well over $20 million. I’ve been around all levels of hockey and this event is probably the most under-appreciated world-class competition that I know of.
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“When you go into Canada for this event, the television ratings approach Stanley Cup levels.”
A decision on the host city is expected by the end of the year and if St. Louis is chosen, Scottrade Center and the Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., would serve as host venues. USA Hockey officials will visit the three finalist cities over the next month.
The tournament features the top stars under age 20 from 10 countries and is held in late December and early January.
“These are all the future NHLers,” Zimmerman said. “Pick a guy like (Sidney) Crosby, (Alex) Ovechkin, all the great players didn’t just show in the NHL. I guarantee they came through the path of playing in this tournament for their country.”
Chicago and Tampa were among the original five finalists, but did not make the cut to the final three. In the past, St. Louis has served as host for the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four college hockey championship tournament, the 2011 NCAA Regional Final and also is host for the 2017 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four college hockey championship.
Curremt Blues Paul Stastny and Chris Butler are among 10 St. Louis natives currently in the NHL. Many former Blues remain living here after their playing careers end and have remained active in the youth hockey coaching community.
St. Louisans Steve Cash and Billy Hanning are represented on the U.S. Men’s Paralympic Team and another local player, Jincy Dunne, who scored two goals, including the game-winner, to help USA Hockey win a gold medal at the 2015 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship.