MINNEAPOLIS – It was early January of 1982. “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John was atop the pop charts. And the World Junior Championships awarded medals after games played in Rochester and the Twin Cities.
According to one local organizer, that is just too long ago, and it’s time for the world’s best young hockey talent to come back to the State of Hockey.
While the 2023 World Juniors were happening in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Matt Meunier from Minnesota Sports and Events was there, seeing how the event was run, and envisioning how the Twin Cities and possibly arenas throughout the state could host the tournament a few years from now.
“I think the timing makes a lot of sense for us to finally bring this thing back to Minnesota,” Meunier said after returning from Canada. Later this year, USA Hockey will send out the specifics for what is required to host the 2026 World Juniors, and the Minnesota group is expected to bid.
Minnesota Sports and Events is a regional sports commission representing the Twin Cities. It is the permanent local organizing committee for major events, like the NCAA Women’s Final Four last spring, and the upcoming Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Not surprisingly, World Juniors as an event has grown considerably since it was last held in the metro area in 1982. It’s even a much bigger event than in 2005, when Grand Forks and Thief River Falls were the host communities for future stars like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Dave Fischer of USA Hockey noted that the 2026 event, which will actually begin on Dec. 26, 2025, will involve 10 teams playing 30-plus games over the course of two weeks and will require hundreds of hotel rooms.
Looking around the Twin Cities, Meunier sees countless hotels that are generally not busy in the period between Christmas and New Years, as few people are traveling on business then. And he sees venues throughout the state that can and would make this a truly regional event.
“We’re blessed with a number of really first rate hockey facilities, so we’ve got a lot of options here in Minnesota. It’s cool because it’s not just a metro area, Minneapolis-St. Paul event. We could stage pool play games or pre-tournament matches throughout the state,” Meunier said, naming Warroad, Eveleth, Duluth, Mankato and St. Cloud as potential hosts for pre-tournament games.
The 2023 tournament was primarily held at arenas in Halifax and Moncton, which held between 10,500 and 7,000 fans. In the Twin Cities, there are a few larger options that could accommodate the potentially larger crowds that would want to see rivalry games like Sweden-Finland and USA-Canada. Although Meunier cautioned that they will not explore specific rinks until they see USA Hockey’s requirements, he already has a few places in mind.
“Before we commit to any venues, we need to see what the requirement package looks like but obviously we would love to make it work,” he said. “Xcel Energy Center makes a lot of sense, Target Center could potentially be in play along with the U of M facilities.”
Per Fischer, once USA Hockey sends out the bid requirements, they will see what different potential host communities propose, they will narrow down the list of finalists, they will get out and visit the communities to see the venues firsthand, and then will make a decision. Minnesota will face some stiff competition, as border cities like Seattle and Detroit are expected to bid, and their proximity to Canada means the potential for plenty of fans in red coming down south to buy World Juniors tickets, as was the case in Grand Forks, and when Buffalo hosted the event in 2011 and 2018.
Still, the folks in Minnesota are undaunted and optimistic as they prepare to make a bid, hoping for good news from USA Hockey sometime in the next 12 months or so.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity. It’s the State of Hockey and it would be very well-received here in our community,” Meunier said. “I don’t think there would be a ton of education needed, at least in the hockey culture. The hockey community knows the magnitude of this event and what it would mean to our state, so I think there are a lot of natural synergies to bringing the World Junior Championships to Minnesota.”
And that would surely leave folks in the Minnesota hockey community partying like it’s 1982.