Canadian hockey juniors coming to Whistler 

44 top prospects to try out for IIHF World Junior Championships

Meadow Park ice rink will be mostly closed to the public from August 10 to 15 this summer, but I doubt any hockey fans are going to mind.

Last week it was announced that Whistler will host Canada’s 2006 National Junior Development Camp in preparation for the annual International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championships. The championships take place from December 26 to January 5 in Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops.

This is arguably the biggest event for Meadow Park since Whistler hosted the 1996 World Cup of Hockey training camp.

"Whistler is such a great spot," said Brad Pascall, director of communications for Hockey Canada. "We used it before (in 1996) and that went really well. Stan Smyl, who runs his hockey camps in Whistler every summer is always in touch with us and telling us how great the facilities are. It’s also close to the Lower Mainland, which is important, but it’s a little bit removed as well so we can really get away from things for a few days and concentrate on hockey."

The schedule for the camps is still being worked out, but there will likely be a training session every morning, and a scrimmage in the afternoons. The public will likely be welcome to at least some of the events, if not all of the sessions. "Those are the kinds of things we’re still working out," said Pascall.

Accommodation is also being worked out, and Hockey Canada is negotiating with hotels to house the team for the duration of the camp.

Handling the sports media will also be a big job.

"There’s always a lot of interest in the Canadian junior team, the kids are from everywhere across the country and so the whole country tunes in," said Pascall.

"We don’t have numbers, but there will be a lot of media on hand."

There are no specific plans as of yet, but the world junior camp usually involves the local minor hockey association in planning and running the events.

"I know we partnered with the local minor hockey association in 1996," Pascall said.

"We’re always looking for volunteers, and we’re always keen to work with the minor hockey association and to get a few of the local kids involved.

"This was only announced recently but we have already had a few people contact us."

Bill Murray, the president of the Whistler Minor Hockey Association, just learned that the juniors were coming early this week, but is looking forward to getting involved.

"That’s going to be great for minor hockey, whatever the arrangement is, just for our own juniors to be able to see that level of hockey here," he said. "Especially to be able to see all these young guys that still have so much passion for the game. It just raises local interest in hockey in general, and that’s always good for the club."

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