The best Junior A hockey players in the world will take to the ice at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre this December.

The RECC, which is home of the Truro Bearcats, will play host to the World Junior A Challenge from December 10 to 16. Six teams including Canada West and Canada East will battle it out over 13-games in an effort to win gold.

The announcement was made January 26 at the RECC.

“This is an exciting time for our entire community and our province,” said Dave Ritcey, chair of the local host committee. “Bringing a Hockey Canada event of this magnitude to this community will attract people from around the world. This is one of Hockey Canada’s premier events.”

Truro becomes the third Nova Scotian community to host the tournament in the last five years. Yarmouth successfully played host in both 2012 and 2013.

Historically, the event has poured millions of dollars in economic spinoffs to host communities. Ritcey believes that will be no different with Truro.

“In recent years it’s averaged between $2 million and $3 million injected into the economy,” he said. “That’s talking hotels and restaurants along with increased business to our local retailers. This is happening the week before Christmas. There will be families coming to watch their sons play hockey and when they’re here, those families will be shopping.”

Approximately 160 NHL scouts will watch the tournament, which has produced more than 230 draft picks. That includes the 2012 entry draft’s first overall pick Nail Yakupov and his St. Louis Blues teammate Vladimir Tarasenko who was selected 16th overall in 2010.

Ottawa’s Kyle Turris, Toronto’s Zach Hyman, Winnipeg’s Nik Ehlers and Montreal’s Jacob de la Rose have also played in the World Junior A Challenge.

“It’s an exciting opportunity returning to Nova Scotia with a world-class event such as the World Junior A Challenge,” said Dean MacIntosh, senior director of events and properties with Hockey Canada.

The tournament was first held in 2006. Since its inception, nine of 11 gold medal games have featured a Canadian team. Canada West won gold in the first two years as well as in 2011 and 2015. Canada East has yet to win a gold medal but have claimed silver five times as well as a bronze in 2008. 

The United States is the defending champion, winning gold at last year’s tournament in Bonnyville, Alberta.

All 13 games will be broadcasted on Hockey TV with the final airing on TSN. Ritcey says it’s a great way to shed some light on the community.

“The Rath Eastlink Centre will be the focus of junior hockey at this time which means it’s going to put Truro on the map,” he said. “With the gold medal game on TSN, it provides us with even more of an opportunity to showcase our community.”

Several exhibition games are also on the schedule but Ritcey says they won’t all be played at the RECC.

“We’re going to host these games in other facilities as well in an effort to raise awareness and bring people in,” he said. “It’s a big thing for our community. It’s a big thing for the young kids in our community who are aspiring to one day play in a tournament like this.”

Both the Town of Truro and the County of Colchester have joined in as funding partners. Truro Mayor Bill Mills and County Mayor Christine Blair were both at the announcement.

“The World Junior A Challenge has become a major international sporting event featuring exciting young hockey talent from around the world,” said Blair. “Bringing this level of competition to Truro and Colchester just wouldn’t happen without all the community involvement and investment in the RECC. And now we have a chance, not only to enjoy the World Junior A Challenge, but also to inspire our young athletes, to showcase what we have and who we are, and to welcome guests from around the world.”

The community involvement Blair speaks of will be crucial to the success of the event, said Ritcey, adding upwards of 100 volunteers would be needed.

However, just days after the announcement, more than 75 had already signed up to volunteer.

“People in the community are asking how they can get involved, the business community is asking how they can support the event through sponsorship, hockey fans are asking about ticketing packages, and volunteers are eagerly signing up to help execute the event,” Ritcey said. “That tells me that people are invested in making this a memorable experience. It shows me the pride people have for their community, and it’s exactly why I knew Truro would make an ideal host for this event.”

Ticket information including packages will be released in the near future. While he couldn’t release many details, Ritcey says the goal, since the early planning stages, has been for tickets to be affordable for everyone.

“We’re not talking $25 or $30 a ticket,” he said. “We want this to be affordable for our community. If we can generate enough through our sponsorship and funding we receive, that will definitely help as well.”

Matt Moore, RECC general manager says it’s just one more way to show the community just what the facility is capable of.

“One word describes how we feel and that’s pride,” he said. “People will hear me use that word an awful lot over the next 11 months. I’m proud of this facility and our dedicated staff members who have overcome a number of challenges yet continue to believe in the cause the Rath Eastlink Community Centre represents.”

Information on the World Junior A Hockey Challenge can be found at www.ratheastlinkcommunitycentre.ca/wjac. Anyone with inquiries can email wjac@ratheastlinkcc.ca.