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World junior championship: Tampa vying to host in 2018

Team Canada's Jonathan Drouin celebrates a NHL preseason goal with the Lightning (Associated Press)

Some 3,500 Canadians trekked to Malmo, Sweden for this world junior championship, so one can only imagine how many snowbirds would flock to a more familiar travel destination.

The world junior runs on Canada's seemingly boundless passion for the event, although between the full rinks in Malmo for Sweden's games and the uptick in U.S. media coverage, interest in other top hockey nations is increasing incrementally. The combination of those two elements — the ability and willingness of Canadian fans to travel over the Christmas holidays and the increased access American fans have to the tournament — means the time for the U.S. to not host the WJC in a border city is fast approaching.

Enter Tampa, Fla., which has already done a bang-up job hosting a NCAA Frozen Four.

From Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO):

While the Forum would serve as the main venue for games, including the semifinal and championship games, a second venue is required. Germain Arena in Estero, home of the Florida Everblades in the East Coast Hockey League, is a likely candidate.

The Tampa area has hosted multiple Super Bowls, NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the 2012 NCAA men’s ice hockey championship. The 2015 Women’s Final Four, 2016 NCAA Frozen Four and 2017 NCAA football championship game will be in Tampa.

[Rob] Higgins [who is the executive director of the Tampa Sports Commission — Ed.] hopes the success of such events, particularly the Frozen Four, will resonate when the bidding process begins.

“The fact we were a non-traditional host (of the 2012 Frozen Four) and were able to be successful ... speaks directly to our community as a sports town, as well as the passion we have for hockey here,” Higgins said.(Tampa Tribune)

But what if there's a conflict with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers home playoff game? Don't worry, probably not a possibility.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are also finishing the details on an application to host the world junior championships in 2018 at the Consol Energy Center. A nearby major junior or minor pro market to serve as a secondary venue.

Multiple NHL markets in distinct regions of the U.S. taking an interest in the tourney shows how big of a tent-pole event it is becoming. The tournament will never have the same place in the American sportgeist that it does for three weeks in Canada, but it's different on the business side.

Tampa, and maybe this is the Canadian in the middle of a cold snap talking, is certainly the most intriguing possibility. The synergy of attracting hockey fans to the Sunbelt should be fairly obvious. In any event, it appears USA Hockey has advanced beyond its usual recourse of putting the WJC is to put it in a border city such as Grand Forks, N.D. (2005) or Buffalo (2011).

Canada will host in 2015, '17, and '19 and '21, with the first two being shared by Montreal and Toronto. Finland is hosting in '16.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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