STOCKHOLM: The Swedish Ice Hockey Association announced that the 2014 IIHF World U20 Championship has been allocated to Malmö, a twin city to Denmark’s capital Copenhagen.
It is the first time the Swedish association has decided to allocate the World Juniors to one of its three major cities and to a state-of-the art 10,000 plus seat arena.
“We are very proud to welcome future stars to Malmö in 2014,” says Christer Englund, president of the Swedish association and IIHF Council member. “Junior hockey's prime event has seen an amazing development in the last years and the IIHF U20 championship is today one of the world's major annual sports events.”
The main venue will be the Malmö Arena, built in 2008 with a capacity of around 13,000 spectators, including standing room. The 5,000-seat Malmö Isstadion will most likely be the second venue.
Sweden has hosted the World Juniors on five occasions earlier and has always opted for mid-sized towns like Skellefteå, Mora or Gävle. As the popularity of junior hockey and consequently the World U20s has increased in Sweden, the association took the decision to go to a major city for the sixth U20 championship on Swedish ice.
The Malmö-region, together with Copenhagen, has a population base of 3,6 million and is one of Europe’s most vibrant regions. Malmö Arena is home to the Malmö Redhawks, Sweden’s most underachieving club which despite a major league arena and rich resources plays in the second-tier league, Allsvenskan.
Today, Sweden is the prime producer of hockey talent in Europe. This was once again proven at the 2011 NHL draft in Minneapolis this past weekend when a record 28 Swedes were selected by the 30 clubs. But Sweden hasn't yet been able to turn this into optimal success on ice.
Sweden has won the U20 Championship only once and that was way back in 1981. The “Junior-Crowns” claimed two silver and one bronze medal in the last four U20 events.
The 2012 IIHF World U20 Championship will be played in Calgary, Edmonton (Canada), while Ufa (Russia) will host the 2013 event.
It is believed that the Malmö bid, in the last selection stage, defeated a tender from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city after the capital Stockholm.
It is very likely that Malmö’s proximity to Copenhagen and Denmark (just a bridge separates the two cities) was one of the reasons why the association decided in favor of Malmö. Denmark is one of the most rapidly growing hockey countries among all IIHF members with an excellent youth development program, which has sent six players to the NHL in the 2010-2011 season.
Another one, Nicklas Jensen, was selected in the first round (by Vancouver) in the 2011 NHL draft.
If the Danish U20 team will be part of the event, it would most likely mean a substantial attendance boost from the other side of the Öresund strait, the waters separating Sweden from Denmark.
The 2014 allocation is subject to IIHF Congress approval.
- By IIHF.com staff with files from the Swedish Ice Hockey Association