3 Reasons St. Louis Should Host the 2025 WJC

The 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) is underway in Canada and one of the world’s biggest hockey tournaments will be making its return to the United States in 2025 for the first time since Buffalo hosted the 2018 edition that saw Team Canada take home the gold medal.

With the explosion of young talent coming out of St. Louis and the recent NHL events that have taken place in the city, it would be the perfect candidate to host the next US-based tournament despite its cold climate in the winter months. There has not been a WJC outside the city of Buffalo since the 2005 edition that was split between Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Since then, there have only been two instances of a US-based WJC competition.

Across the history of the event, the United States has hosted the tournament five times and only four times since the IIHF officially sponsored it in 1977. Despite St. Louis not being a major market like New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, there are three key reasons why it should get the nod for 2025.

St. Louis Has Hosted Big Events in The Past

While the St. Louis Blues have only won one Stanley Cup since its inception in 1967, the city has grown as an elite hockey town in the last 10 years. Enterprise Center has been chosen to host an All-Star Game, and the 2019 Stanley Cup Final put the spotlight on the hockey culture in the town.

St. Louis Blues fans Stanley Cup Enterprise Center
Fans celebrate at the Stanley Cup Final Game 7 Watch Party at the Enterprise Center (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)

While every stadium is equipped to handle a Stanley Cup Final, the uniqueness of the Blues’ 2019 Cup run was the fact that it was a first for the city. The Stanley Cup parade in downtown St. Louis following the team’s championship is still talked about throughout the city and was the biggest event since the 2017 Winter Classic.

Speaking of the Winter Classic, the Blues hosted a successful event at Busch Stadium in 2017, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, as a sold-out crowd of 46,556 was in attendance to watch them top their arch-rival Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. The outdoor game against the Blackhawks was not the only big event that weekend, as the Blues and Blackhawks also played in an alumni game that featured all-time greats like Wayne Gretzky, Martin Brodeur, and Brett Hull to face a Phil Esposito-led Blackhawks team.

The success of the Winter Classic and the Stanley Cup Final culminated with an All-Star Game in 2020. While David Pastrnak led the Atlantic Division to a championship, the skills competition was highlighted by a 3-on-3 women’s hockey game that featured American and Canadian All-Stars.

New Infrastructure in Place

The new Centene Community Ice Center in nearby Maryland Heights opened shortly after the Blues’ Stanley Cup victory in 2019. The $83 million complex features four NHL-sized rinks and the Blues’ primary practice facility. The addition of this facility will give adequate practice space for all teams if the United States hosts the 2025 WJC in a single city.

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St. Louis is also slated to host the 2024 ACHA Championship after a successful tournament in 2022. The St. Louis Sports Commission has been aggressive in the past when trying to secure big-time events and that association was key in bringing back an XFL franchise to the city.

The newly-renovated Enterprise Center would still serve as the primary venue for the tournament, but if the IIHF wants to limit it to just one city, there would be plenty of rinks available for teams to practice and play in. If they want to continue the trend of multiple cities, look for a potential Chicago/St. Louis or Nashville/St. Louis combination.

St. Louis Keeps Pumping Out NHL Talent

The city of St. Louis has established itself as a hotbed for NHL talent. Pat Maroon, Clayton Keller, Chris Wideman, Brady Tkachuk, and Matthew Tkachuk highlight the long list of elite NHL players that come from St. Louis.

There was no greater example of the Gateway City’s explosion of hockey talent than the 2016 NHL Draft which saw five St. Louisans drafted in the first round. Matthew Tkachuk, Keller, current Blue Logan Brown, Luke Kunin, and Trent Frederic all went within the first 28 picks of the draft.

Brady Tkachuk Senators
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blues were pushing hard to acquire Matthew from the Calgary Flames in the offseason, but the Florida Panthers eventually came in and acquired the forward in an offseason blockbuster. Keller has turned into one of the game’s top forwards while Brown, Kunin, and Frederic have become serviceable NHL players.

There is no sign of slowing down when it comes to NHL prospects hailing from St. Louis as the Blues and the rest of the NHL are remaining active in the community to encourage people to keep playing the game of hockey. Having elite players from one city would be a major talking point throughout the tournament.

St. Louis will never have the draw that a team on either coast has, but there’s no question that it is well-equipped to host a major tournament like the World Junior Championship. The IIHF could do a lot worse than select the city of St. Louis for the 2025 tournament.

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