A committee has been formed to bring The World Jr. A Challenge to Bonnyville.
Committee member, and long-time voice of The Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs, Robb Hunter, explains the event is much like The World Juniors, “it’s the Jr. An equivalent of the actual World Juniors that everyone gets so excited about at Christmas.” Hunter says there’s plenty of elite players who have played the Challenge, “players like Justin Fountaine and Steven Siego , they were invited and have played in this tournament in the past.” Fountaine went on the NHL, playing with The Minnesota Wild, while Siego went on to play a few games in the AHL.
Hunter says it’s a great opportunity for The Pontiacs, “the team’s pretty hopeful that with some of the players they have coming in, and some of the players that are on the team right now, they’ll have the opportunity to make Team Canada West.” Hunter says this will help launch their standings in the hockey community as an opportunity, “to represent their country and our region in this event.”
Not only will there be opportunities for the hockey community, should the event come to town, but also economically says Hunter, “Hockey Canada has done a number of studies and they show that millions of dollars get returned back into the community by the number of parents, family and friends, and fans.” Hunter says the Challenge draws in hockey scouts and insiders, “it’s more than just NHL scouts that come to this, it’s CIS, the NCAA, all kinds of people.”
The scouting is an important aspect to the tournament, says Hunter, “every NHL team will be represented at this event.” There has been quite a few NHL players discovered at the event including 2012 NHL #1 Draft pick and Edmonton Oiler, Nial Yakupav. “Just this last World Jr. A Challenge, which was in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, we saw two players get drafted into the NHL in the first round,” explains Hunter, “Brock Boeser was taken 23rd overall by Vancouver and Kyle Connor was drafted 17th overall by The Winnipeg Jets.” Hunter says this is an elite tournament, “it’s a high level of hockey.”
The committee approached The Town of Bonnyville at July 14th Town Council Meeting asking for The Town’s support, which Mayor of Bonnyville Gene Sobolewski says the town is ready to give. “Basically, it’s a really exciting proposal,” says the Mayor who goes on to note he has a personal connection as he is one of the committee members. “It’s a fantastic opportunity,” says Mayor Sobolewski, “for not only the region but for The Town itself, to showcase Northeast Alberta.”
“There’s a lot of opportunity here,” the Mayor explains economic calculations done by Hockey Canada, “approximately $2.1 million dollars to the region.” This comes from various influxes, “hotel rooms along (will see) 1500-2000 rooms per night.”
The Gold Medal Game will be broadcast on TSN, says Mayor Sobolewski, “so we’re going to have potentially TSN cameras live in the RJ.”
Mayor Sobolewski says there’s a lot of work involved, “not only in the bid but putting together where the costs are going to come from.” “Initially, The Council, we’re, 100% on board,” Mayor Sobolewski explains Bonnyville’s commitment, “we’re even willing to look at financial contributions.”
Should the committee be successful with their bid the event will be held in December of 2016 at The Centennial Centre in Bonnyville. There are corporate sponsorship opportunities available by calling 780-826-8785