Quebec City has been named the host of the gold medal final and both semifinal games for the event, which will be held in Canada for the first time ever less than two years from now.
Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson made the official announcement on Thursday at the IIHF’s semi-annual congress in Athens.
Halifax is co-hosting the event and was also considered, but Quebec was the logical choice for the big games because the 15,000-seat Colisee is larger than the 10,500-seat Metro Centre.
“We really felt that the Colisee and the number of people it can hold . . . make it the spot to do it,” Nicholson said from Greece. “When you look at Quebec, there’s such a history with the game.
“It’s going to be very attractive for the Europeans.”
Quebec City hosting the gold medal game was exactly what IIHF president Rene Fasel envisioned when Canada was awarded the championship over two years ago.
He has said it’s important for the IIHF to celebrate its 100th anniversary in the country where hockey was born and likes that 2008 also marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.
Hockey Canada considered both of its host cities for the gold medal final before coming to its decision. Halifax and Quebec City will split the preliminary and qualifying round games along with the quarter-final matches.
“Rene Fasel has been wonderful,” said Nicholson. “He understands our concern that we want to make sure that both Halifax and Quebec City are looked after.”
Nicholson noted that the schedule for the event – which will be held May 1 to May 18, 2008 – is still in its earliest stages.
He said Team Canada will probably play its preliminary and qualifying round games in Halifax before hopefully advancing to the medal round in Quebec City. It’s also possible that a training camp and exhibition games could be held at the Metro Centre.
Nicholson is anxious to see how Canadians embrace the party atmosphere that surrounds the event. Thousands of fans from every European country typically show up and support their team with more outward passion than North Americans are used to.
“I think it’s going to be really interesting to see European fans meeting Canadian fans,” he said. “We have never had that to any real degree.
“When you get those Latvian fans jumping up and down, I’m not sure what our Canadian fans are going to do.”
The event promises to be even bigger than normal with Thursday’s news that the IIHF had moved its General Congress from Paris to Montreal to coincide with the world championship.
That meeting brings together all 65 member countries together once every four years to elect the president and council. It will start on May 20, 2008 – two days after the gold medal game in Quebec City – and will bring even more international attention to Canada.
“It makes it more special,” said Nicholson, who lobbied Fasel to get the congress moved to Montreal. “We don’t want it just to be the world championship. There’s going to be a lot going on.”
Canada (Montreal and Winnipeg) was actually awarded the world tournament in 1970, but withdrew after disagreements over player eligibility. The 1962 tournament was hosted by Colorado Springs, Colo., the only time it’s ever been held outside Europe.
The 2007 world championship will be held in Moscow before coming to Canada in 2008.
Fasel has strongly supported bring the IIHF’s marquee event to the place where the game is most beloved.
“When you go to arenas in Canada it’s such a special atmosphere,” he has said. “I want European fans to come to this tournament and feel that atmosphere. It’s the meaning of hockey.”
Also decided at the semi-annual congress on Thursday:
-The 2008 women’s world championship was awarded to China, in a city yet to be announced. The 2008 under-18 tournament was given to Kazan, Russia.
-Serbia officially took over the membership of Serbia-Montenegro, which split up in May. The new nation of Montenegro has not yet submitted a membership application.
-Malaysia was adopted as the IIHF’s 65th member. It will have associate status because the country has no official hockey program yet.