World Junior countdown in Novosibirsk
by Andy Potts|20 NOV 2018
Novosibirsk’s new 10,000-seat arena will open in 2022 before hosting the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.
photo: Government of the Novosibirsk Region
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The 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship might seem a long way off – but in Novosibirsk, the host city is already getting on with the preparations.

Recently a ceremony marked the official start of work on the new, purpose-built 10,000-capacity arena that will stage the championship. And the city’s plans include more than just replacing the existing Sibir Arena, which dates from the 1960s. The new arena is due to be built on a site near the River Ob and the October Bridge, almost opposite the Rechnoi Vokzal district where the city’s first hockey was played in 1948. The riverside neighbourhood, which already features a snowboard park and a sports college, is also due to get a brand-new metro station and heavily upgraded transport links while the city’s Tolmachyovo international airport is in line for a major revamp ahead of the tournament.

The first puck has already been dropped on the site: as part of the ceremonies around the start of the project visiting dignitaries, including IIHF President René Fasel and Russian Hockey Federation head Vladislav Tretiak, signed a giant commemorative puck to mark the occasion. 

“It’s an important day, not just for Siberia but for the whole of Russia,” said Fasel. “Up to now, I’ve been really impressed with the work on this project and I’m 100% certain that everything will be ready on schedule. I can’t wait to come back here in 2023 and see some outstanding games in an outstanding arena.”

Russia is no stranger to hosting major international events, from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi to several World Championships for different age groups. But this is the first time a top-level hockey tournament will come to Siberia – something that has particularly impressed Fasel.

“We’ve had many successful championships and tournaments in Russia, but it’s especially exciting to be coming here to Novosibirsk,” he added. “It’s going to be a fantastic experience for the young hockey players of nine visiting nations, a chance to visit this part of the world, get a flavour of life in Siberia and try the tastiest local pelmeni.”
IIHF President René Fasel signs a symbolic puck for the ceremony of the new arena in Novosibirsk.
photo: Government of the Novosibirsk Region
For Tretiak, the upcoming tournament is another sign of the faith that the world’s sporting bodies have in Russia’s ability to put on a big show. “We have plenty of experience, so people trust us to stage this kind of championship well,” said the Russian Hockey Federation President. “And we hope that as many guests as possible will take the opportunity to come here and enjoy the hospitality of Novosibirsk.”

Transforming a city

Novosibirsk will be the third Russian host of the World Junior Championship, following Moscow and Podolsk in 2001 and Ufa in 2013. The local authorities are determined to ensure that this major staging post on the Trans-Siberian Railway looks its very best for visitors when the World Juniors comes to town. The city is looking to spend around 37 billion rubles (just over €490 million) in preparing the city over the next five years, with expenditure on new buses, tramcars and metro links, the airport reconstruction, an extensive renovation of the city’s historic centre – and new snow-clearing technology to cope with the weather in the middle of the Siberian winter.

“We have a great chance to develop the entire urban infrastructure, not just the area around the new arena,” said mayor Anatoli Lotok. “Practice rinks will be in different parts of town and our guests will be accommodated in various districts so we have to make sure that we show our city at its very best.”

The new arena and associated infrastructure are projected to cost 10 billion rubles (€133m), a bill set to be met by a 3.5 billion ruble (€46.5m) contribution from the Federal Government plus contributions from the Novosibirsk regional authorities and the city government. Construction work is expected to start next year and the arena is scheduled to open its doors in June 2022, six months before the start of the tournament.

The current 7,489-seat Ice Sport Palace Sibir will be reconstructed between 2019 and 2022 to serve as secondary venue for the 2023 World Juniors.

Hockey in the heart of Siberia

Novosibirsk, regarded as the capital of Siberia, was among the first Soviet cities to take ice hockey to its heart after World War II. The game arrived in Siberia in 1948 and the following year saw the local Dynamo sports society opt to swap its bandy team for a hockey club. Among the early pioneers of the game was forward Valentin Kuzin, a Novosibirsk native who played for his local team before moving to Dynamo Moscow and becoming an Olympic champion in 1956.

The city’s current team, Sibir, was founded in 1962 following a merger of Dynamo and Khimik. Its best result was a third-place finish in the KHL in 2015 and the club is also noted for its enthusiastic fans. The current Sibir arena is one of the best-attended in the KHL and crowds have remained good this season despite the team’s disappointing start to the campaign. In recent years, Sibir has nurtured the talents of Vladimir Tarasenko, now starring for the St. Louis Blues, while Jori Lehtera, now with the Flyers, also had three productive seasons with the club.

Next IIHF World Junior Championships

2019: Vancouver & Victoria, Canada
2020: Ostrava & Trinec, Czech Republic
2021: Canada (venues TBA)
2022: Sweden (venues TBA)
2023: Novosibirsk, Russia