CALGARY – Ufa, Russia is about to become a household name for junior hockey fans worldwide, as organizers of the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship made clear at a media conference on January 3 at the Saddledome.
The capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan, two hours from Moscow by air, will welcome the world’s top 10 U20 hockey nations from December 26, 2012 to January 5, 2013. With an honour guard of three uniformed Canadian Mounties on hand, 2012 tournament co-chair Jim Peplinski, former captain of the Calgary Flames, gave a warm introduction to representatives from Ufa, including Fidus Yamaltdinov, the deputy prime minister of Bashkortostan.
“I’m flattered to pass the torch to Ufa,” said Peplinski. “We’ve had a wonderful time here working together. We take great pride in passing on what we’ve learned from past events to our good friends in Ufa.”
One of those friends is Russian hockey legend Alexander Yakushev, who attended the press conference as an ambassador for 2013. Peplinski noted with a smile that he and Ken Linseman recently played in a charity game with Yakushev in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and both Canadians were in awe of the 65-year-old who led the Soviets with 11 points in the historic 1972 Summit Series.
So what actually awaits fans who attend the 37th World Juniors? The city of 1 million, located in the Ural Mountains, boasts two fine venues: the new 7,950-seat Ufa Arena, and the 3,900-seat Ufa Sports Palace. The former debuted in 2007 with the opening games of the junior Super Series between Canada and Russia. Previously, Ufa hosted the 1996 European junior championships.
Alexander Efimov, general manager of the 2013 tournament, noted: “We have a large experience in hosting large sporting events on a world level, like biathlon and Greco-Roman wrestling.”
A letter from the President of Bashkortostan, Ruslan Khamitov, was read aloud, noting that Ufa’s KHL franchise, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the club won the league title in 2011. Images of that triumph were displayed to the strains of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” during an engaging video presentation.
With a wide selection of modern hotels, diverse restaurants, and well-organized transportation, fans will enjoy their hockey experience in Ufa, an industrial, scientific, and cultural centre.
Other points of interest from the press conference:
- The organization of the tournament is being spearheaded by President Khamitov and Vladislav Tretiak, head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, and more than 300 people are currently involved in putting the 2013 edition together.
- The average ticket price for games will be $15 US.
- The official web site for Ufa 2013 will launch in February.
- Canadian fans wishing to attend the event can book customized tours through Guelph, Ontario-based Destiny Tours.
NOTE: A video of the full press conference can be found on the IIHF's YouTube channel.