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Town, MD unanimously support bid for World Jr. A Challenge

Bonnyville officially submitted their bid to host the World Jr. A Challenge last week, complete with the backing of both Town Council and the MD of Bonnyville Council.

Bonnyville officially submitted their bid to host the World Jr. A Challenge last week, complete with the backing of both Town Council and the MD of Bonnyville Council.

The bid, which included a letter of support from Minnesota Wild forward Justin Fontaine, was sent to the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) and Hockey Alberta for review. The provincial organizations looked over the application last week and then forwarded it on to Hockey Canada for official consideration.

Each year the best Jr. A players from across Canada, the United States, Russia and Europe faceoff against each other in a week long tournament.

Since 2006 nine different Canadian communities – Yorkton and Humbolt, SK, Trail and Nelson, B.C., Camrose, AB, Summerside, P.E.I, Pentiction, B.C. Langley, B.C., Yarmouth, N.S., and Kindersely, SK – have hosted this prestigious international hockey tournament.

Bonnyville's quest to host the world-class tournament received a huge boost last week when the Town and MD Council's unanimously supported their bid with hefty financial commitments.

Along with becoming official team sponsors – a $15,000 commitment – the Town and the MD agreed to split the rental costs of all Centennial Centre facilities used during the event.

The financial support given by both councils came at the request of local tournament's organization committee members Robb Hunter and Richard Wurst, who approached both local councils last week.

“It really would put Bonnyville on the map if we could host this international event,” said Hunter. “It would be great for the community.”

When inquiring about the bid process Hunter was told by Hockey Canada that previous hosts cities had been able to get their municipality to cover any costs associated with renting the arena and other facilities used during the tournament. On top of that, past host cities have also become a large sponsor for the event.

Hunter relayed this information to the local councils and was met with full support.

The 13-game tournament, which will run from Dec. 11 through 17 of 2016, is requesting the use of the RJ Lalonde Arena, Cenvous Arena, Flint Field House, VIP room and all locker rooms for the entire week.

Since the inaugural tournament in 2006 the World Jr. A Challenge has featured over 100 players who have gone on to be drafted into the NHL. Players such as Edmonton's Nail Yakupov, Calgary's Joe Colbourne, Ottawa's Kyle Turris and St. Louis' Jaden Schwartz have all suited up for their respective countries.

Every year Canada enters two teams into the tournament, selecting the best players from each half of the country and creating East and West squads.

Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs players will be eligible to try out for Team Canada West. Past tournaments have seen two Pontiacs represent the organization at this event in Fontaine and defenseman Steven Siego.

While the costs associated with hosting the tournament are expected to be high, the economic spinoff received by communities will more than outweigh those costs.

The 2014 edition of the tournament was held in Kindersely, SK, with the municipality estimating a $2.1 million economic spinoff for their town and a $3.5 million overall economic spinoff for the province of Saskatchewan.

“From a business point of view this is a huge, huge event,” said Wurst, when addressing MD council. “We have been living and dying on the oil patch. This is something we should look at to diversify what we do in this community.

With the teams, fans and NHL scouts expected to attend the event, Wurst anticipated the equivalent of 2,000 hotel room nights to be booked.

“I think this is important for not only our community, but our region. This is going to be a big draw,” said Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewksi.

“I want this application to be as strong as it can be.”

The unwavering support from both the Town and the MD council's was added to the bid later on in the week and will be part of the package of information received by Hockey Canada officials.

The deadline for applications for the 2016 World Jr. A Challenge was Sept. 1, with Hockey Canada expected to choose a host site in the coming weeks.

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