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REA has high hopes for 2011

Ralph Engelstad Arena officials say they are "very optimistic" that they will get the World Junior Hockey Championship back to Grand Forks in 2011. The 100-plus page bid they submitted Thursday contains significant money guarantees for USA Hockey...

Ralph Engelstad Arena officials say they are "very optimistic" that they will get the World Junior Hockey Championship back to Grand Forks in 2011.

The 100-plus page bid they submitted Thursday contains significant money guarantees for USA Hockey, which plans to visit potential sites this fall and announce a winner in December. It has already been determined that the 2011 World Junior Championship will be played somewhere in the United States.

The bid also details why arena officials believe if they are awarded the 2011 tournament, it will be more successful than the one it hosted in 2005 -- which became the best-attended WJC outside of Canada and second-best all-time.

"We learned a ton of things from the 2005 event and the World Curling event," said Jody Hodgson, Ralph Engelstad Arena's general manager. "I think we give USA Hockey the best opportunity to maximize its profits.

"One way to learn things in life is by rolling up your sleeves and doing it. We have learned a lot of things to apply to the 2011 tournament, given the opportunity."


Ralph Engelstad Arena has partnered with the Moorhead Sports Center for its bid. In 2005, Thief River Falls' Engelstad Arena served as the satellite site.

The involvement of the state of Minnesota, the city of Moorhead and the Moorhead Youth Hockey Association were major factors, Hodgson said.

There were discussions with a few other communities and arenas in the area. Talks with Fargo's new Urban Plains Center, which is scheduled to open in October and host the World Under-18 championship in April, were extremely minimal.

"When looking at a satellite site," Hodgson said, "you look at market size, market potential, financial potential and the general desire to create a working partnership.

"Moorhead did a great job with the pre-tournament games it had (in 2005). It's a great hockey community with great hockey history. We think the whole community, including Fargo and West Fargo, will get behind it."

USA Hockey said this week that 26 entities have expressed interest in hosting the event, which features the best under-20 players in the world. Bids are due today and the tournament will be held from late December in 2010 through the first week in January 2011.

Because of the current competitive bidding status, Hodgson said he couldn't divulge how much money Ralph Engelstad Arena is prepared to guarantee USA Hockey.

Going above and beyond


Hodgson and Ralph Engelstad Arena director of booking Chris Semrau said they have worked on the bid for several months. They believe they have to be very impressive in order to get the tournament back a second time.

The 2011 World Juniors is only the third tournament the International Ice Hockey Federation has awarded to the U.S. in the last 12 years.

Both of the previous two -- the 2005 World Juniors and the 2009 Under-18 tournament in Fargo -- have been held in North Dakota. Will USA Hockey award a third straight IIHF tournament to North Dakota?

"We're very optimistic," Hodgson said. "We put a lot of time and energy into this bid. It's a very strong bid. We've been working our tails off to get it back here. We're not going into this lackadaisically, just because we've had it before. We know we probably have to do more than other communities to get it back. We have to differentiate ourselves."

Hodgson believes that communities like Grand Forks and Fargo are best suited to host the event because, in larger cities, it won't be the biggest thing in town.

"The prominence and impact in a market of our size is much greater than a large market," he said. "In an NHL market, the World Juniors is not going to be the biggest event in the city. There are many other attractions and diversions."

The United States has hosted the tournament four times -- Minneapolis in 1982, Anchorage in 1989, Boston in 1996 and Grand Forks in 2005. Grand Forks was, by far, the best-attended of the American tournaments.

One big reason for that success is its proximity to Canada, where the tournament is huge. In 2005, thousands of Manitobans flocked to Grand Forks for the event.


Canada won the gold medal, defeating Russia in a game that featured the last two NHL MVPs -- Canada's Sidney Crosby and Russia's Alexander Ovechkin.

"The feedback from the community and the region has been that they didn't fully realize how great the hockey tournament was going to be and how many superstars were going to be playing in it," Hodgson said. "The 2005 tournament has whetted the appetite for fans in the region."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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