Now that the world juniors are over, Riley Wiwchar can switch his focus to 2021 when the annual hockey tournament returns to Canada.
The Comox-raised Wiwchar was director of the 2019 IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Championship, co-hosted by Vancouver and Victoria, which wrapped up Jan. 5.
“Everything exceeded our expectations in terms of fan support,” Wiwchar said. “The teams were all really happy, just the way communities embraced this tournament. It was a really good event.”
Each game in Victoria was a sellout, as were games in Vancouver when defending champion Canada was on the ice. The home side was bounced in the quarter-finals, losing in overtime to eventual champion Finland.
“They’ll regroup and get back at ‘er next year,” Wiwchar said. “I think everyone was a little disappointed, more shocked than anything. That doesn’t usually happen on home soil. But at the end of the day, it didn’t really detract from the tournament. People still came out the last two days and filled the stands. Finland ended up winning the thing, and that was the team that beat Canada. It kind of shows what the level of competition is now in this tournament. Anybody really can win.”
Finland defeated the Americans in the gold medal game while Russia beat Switzerland to win the bronze medal.
Before the tournament got underway, the Swiss held a training camp at the Comox Valley Sports Centre.
“They did well,” Wiwchar said. “They probably placed higher than they thought. They credit that camp as the start to what happened to them.”
Next year’s tournament is in the Czech Republic. In two years, Edmonton and Red Deer are co-hosts.