It was only 40 days ago that the Moose Jaw Events Centre was officially announced as the host arena for the 2023 World Para Hockey Championship, and in that relatively short span of time, things have been moving along at a brisk pace.
Anyone visiting the bowels of the arena over the last few weeks would have come across stacks of sheeting alongside the see-through boards that will be installed at the players benches -- a sure sign that things are happening.
As of next week, preparations will hit high gear as the actual physical installation of the boards and reworking of the ice surface will take place. It’s the next step in busy times for both the facility and the many folks working behind the scenes to pull everything off.
“I think a ton of stuff has been done and I’m really happy with the process and where we’re at,” said Moose Jaw Events Centre general manager Ryan McIvor. “When Hockey Canada and Moose Jaw were awarded the event, we went right to work and we’ve done a lot of things, from the scheduling of the actual games to the practice schedule to some of the marketing and pageantry and all that stuff.
“Now we’re rolling into all the volunteer aspects and the coordination of the delivery of the event and finalizing the accommodations and transportation, so I’m comfortable with where the event is. We’re excited, tickets are on sale and a lot of the big aspects of the event are underway.”
While the installation of the boards and glass will be a straightforward procedure, the preparation of the ice surface will be the biggest time sink. The ice has to be shaved down, repainted with Hockey Canada, International Ice Hockey Federation and sponsorship logos and then be resurfaced, with McIvor expecting the entire retrofit from boards to completion to take about a week.
“We don’t need to rush it since we have time,” he said. “We’re working through the next steps and finalizing and it looks like things are coming together really nicely.”
Of course, things wouldn’t be in the shape they are without the support of the community, and on that end, Moose Jaw’s long history of successfully preparing for and hosting major events is once again coming to the forefront.
“I think the people that are involved, be it the staff in the building or the volunteers who have come out of the woodwork and the directors that are leading some of the areas, they’ve all be fantastic,” McIvor said. “We’re still looking for volunteers for sure, there are a few areas to go, but at the end of the day hockey will be played.”
Once the physical aspect of preparations are complete, it’ll be time to move on to the next big moment: the arrival of eight hockey teams from all over the world. Korea and Canada will be among the first to arrive early in the week, with the rest of the competitors showing up closer to the date.
“There are lots of things to do and lots of minutiae to coordinate,” McIvor said. “You have to remember, this is a big hockey tournament and the people are coming from around the world. You have to deal with the logistical challenges of flying from Norway or Korea to get to Moose Jaw, and you add in the complexities of all the hockey gear and their accessibility issues, they’re not all able-bodied people, so there are accommodations and vehicles that have to be worked with.”
The event begins on Sunday, May 28 with Czechia taking on Korea, Italy facing China and Norway playing Germany. Canada opens their tournament on Monday, May 29 against Korea.
Games continue throughout the week, with the quarter-finals on Friday, June 2, semifinals on Saturday, June 3 and medal games on Sunday, June 4.