Co-hosting the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship with Halifax at the end of the year will provide a much-needed economic and morale boost for Moncton, says the mayor.
"People are very, very excited about this," Mayor Dawn Arnold told CBC Thursday, just hours after Hockey Canada announced the two cities were selected from bids across the country to host.
"It's just a great way for us to get our mojo back."
The under-20 men's tournament was originally supposed to be hosted by Novosibirsk and Omsk in Russia, but the International Ice Hockey Federation stripped Russia of its hosting rights in February due to the invasion of Ukraine.
The tournament will run Dec. 26, 2022, to Jan. 5, 2023, with games played at Moncton's Avenir Centre and Halifax's Scotiabank Centre.
Arnold described it as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for the city and huge for the tourism industry.
"I hear the lines are jammed in all our hotels already," she said, noting the time of year of the tournament is being held is not typically "super busy … so it will be an enormous boost to them."
It's also been a long-time dream of the city to host, she said. "So from a morale perspective, I think for the fans, for the tourism industry, for all of us … it's just a fantastic opportunity all around."
The past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic have been challenging, said Arnold. But sport "has a unifying power and hockey holds particular importance in cities like Moncton and Halifax."
"Our region, hockey fans and players are ready to rally together to host the world and once again celebrate Atlantic Canada on the international stage."
'Unforgettable experience', 'outstanding event'
The world event will showcase the region and the province, said Premier Blaine Higgs.
"We will provide an unforgettable experience for both New Brunswickers and those visiting," he said in a statement. "We look forward to hosting the players and their families."
Hockey New Brunswick president E. Todd Pye promises to deliver "an outstanding event for all players, families and spectators," citing the organization's strong partnership with its colleagues in Nova Scotia.
The Avenir Centre looks forward to "putting on a world-class event and creating some amazing memories," said general manager Dave Saldanha.
"The Moncton Wildcats are pleased to share our home arena, world-class hockey facilities and loyal fans with the best junior hockey players in the world," team president Robert K. Irving said in a statement.
The last time the world juniors were hosted in Atlantic Canada was in 2003, in Halifax and Sydney, N.S.
Since its official inception in 1977, Hockey Canada has hosted the World Junior Championship 15 times.
The 2022 tournament in Edmonton was cancelled Dec. 29, 2021, after just four days of competition. Multiple players tested positive for COVID-19, forcing a number of teams into quarantine.