When the World Para Hockey Championship officially hits the ice in the Friendly City in two months time, the Moose Jaw Events Centre will be ready,
There will be work to do, things to put in place and plenty of preparations, but general manager Ryan McIvor expects it’ll all be a matter of just getting the job done.
And then, let the games begin.
“I think it’s a watershed moment for the community and the building,” McIvor said shortly after the Hockey Canada press conference announcing the tournament in Moose Jaw. “This event is an opportunity that is very special, not only for Moose Jaw to host but for Canada to host this international event for the first time.”
One of the biggest positives in favour of Moose Jaw landing Worlds is the quality of the host facility itself. The Moose Jaw Events Centre was originally constructed with accessibility in mind, and that’s paying huge dividends when it comes to hosting events that require ease of access, including the recently concluded Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship.
“It’s great to get this kind of opportunity, and if we didn’t have this facility, we wouldn’t be getting this kind of event coming here,” said Moose Jaw deputy mayor Heather Eby, who offered remarks on behalf of the City. “It just proves again that this was the right building to build. The wheelchair curling championship competitors told me this was a great building for accessibility, so I have no qualms about bringing the sport here and the fans are going to love it.”
Preparations will begin in earnest once the Moose Jaw Warriors’ season comes to an end, which could be as late as May 19 should they reach the Western Hockey League final. With the building already well ahead when it comes to the basics of accessibility, it’ll just be a matter of preparing for the sport.
“At the end of the day, there are some upgrades that will happen to the facility that will make the building para hockey accessible, but in the scope of the event, those are minor,” McIvor said, adding that when it comes to tournament time proper, the facility will have its staff up to speed and ready to host the best para hockey players on the planet.
“We have a very short runway, the event is not very far away. We’ve tapped some key individuals in key areas and will be looking for volunteers to help with the event, be it transportation, logistics, team services, so there will be some aspects where help will be needed. And we’ll be putting out the call for volunteers very shortly.
“But overall. we’re just so excited to have a chance to host this and have everyone rally around such a big event.”
As for the overall benefit to the community, Eby expects the number of visitors to the city could run into the thousands, especially with Team Canada’s family and friends hitting the Friendly City to watch their players on the ice at home in Worlds for the first time.
“Talking to captain Tyler (McGregor), he said they’re all coming to Moose Jaw for this event, so right there is an economic boost for our businesses and hotels,” Eby said. “It’s going to be great for Moose Jaw as far as tourism and economic impact, and just really fun for our community to come to this event. As a hockey fan, I think it’s going to be a great sport to watch and a great event to be a part of.”
The call for volunteers will soon go out, with between 75 and 100 individuals expected to be needed for the week-long tournament beginning May 28. And then, it’s a matter of packing the stands and showing Team Canada how Moose Jaw supports its own.
“I know Moose Jaw is going to knock it out of the park,” said Eby, “and I hope fans come out and cheer Canada on because this is huge.”