Tampere and Riga replace St. Petersburg as 2023 IIHF World Championship hosts

Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia, have secured co-hosting rights to the 2023 Ice Hockey World Championship stripped from the Russian city of St. Petersburg, while Switzerland has been awarded the 2026 edition of the men’s national team event.

The announcement today (Friday) at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) 2022 Annual Congress will see the World Championship make a swift return to Finland and Latvia, with this year’s event due to conclude in the former this weekend and the latter having staged the 2021 Championship.

Russia last month lost its latest major sporting event owing to its invasion of Ukraine, with the IIHF stripping hosting rights to its 2023 World Championship from St. Petersburg. The IIHF Council said it took the decision “out of concern” for the safety and well-being of all participating players, officials, media, and fans. Russia was awarded the hosting rights in May 2019, with the Championship having been due to take place in St. Petersburg from May 5-21 next year.

The next Worlds will now take place in Tampere and Riga from May 12-28, 2023. The newly opened Nokia Arena in Tampere (pictured) will serve as the main venue, as it has done for the ongoing World Championship, and will host one preliminary-round group, two quarter-finals, all semi-finals and medal games. Up to 11,695 fans have filled the arena during the current tournament and in total 219,124 spectators have attended the 30 games in Tampere.

Co-host Latvia will have the chance to host the World Championship with fans after last year’s event had to be played in mostly empty arenas due to COVID-19 restrictions. Arena Riga, with a capacity of up to 9,550 spectators, will serve as the Latvian venue for the 2023 Worlds, reprising its role as a host in 2006 and 2021. It will stage one preliminary-round group and two quarter-final games. Fan zones are planned for both arenas.

Tampere and Riga were set up to land the 2023 Championship after the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association (MJSZ) announced earlier this week that it had failed to secure the necessary government guarantees to support Budapest’s joint bid with Ljubljana, Slovenia.

However, the two countries still presented their bid with a view towards the 2028 Championship, with the IIHF stating that they received “encouraging ratings for their bid and passion”.

The IIHF has endured a period of upheaval for its flagship national team competition. The 2020 World Championship in Switzerland was cancelled due to COVID-19, while the hosting strategy was altered for both this year’s event and the 2021 competition.

In March, Helsinki Halli was stripped of hosting rights for the 2022 Championship in Finland, with the decision reportedly linked to its connections to Russians on the international sanctions list. The 13,000-capacity arena was due to co-host the event alongside Nokia Arena. However, the IIHF announced that games scheduled to take place at the Helsinki Halli would be played at the smaller Helsinki Ice Hall, which seats 8,200 spectators.

The IIHF in February 2021 granted sole hosting rights for last year’s World Championship to Riga. The Latvian capital had been due to host the tournament alongside neighbouring Minsk in Belarus from May 21 to June 6, with games to be split between the Minsk Arena and Arena Riga.

However, the IIHF earlier stripped the Belarusian capital of its co-hosting rights due to safety and security issues the governing body stated were beyond its control. Belarus’ ability to host the event had been placed into doubt due to political instability in the country.

Meanwhile, today’s Congress also approved Switzerland as host country of the 2026 World Championship, which will take place in Zurich and Fribourg from May 15-31. No vote was required as the only other applicant, Kazakhstan, had earlier withdrawn its bid.

The Swiss Life Arena in Zurich, which is due to open later this year in the Altstetten district of the city, will serve as main venue for the event. The arena will offer a seating capacity for 11,200 fans for ice hockey and boast the largest video cube for a European ice arena.

Fribourg will serve as the secondary venue for the event. The BCF Arena, which has been renovated and extended in recent years, offers a capacity for 7,100 fans.

In between the 2023 and 2026 World Championships, the Czech Republic will stage the 2024 event in Prague and Ostrava, while the 2025 Championship will be co-hosted by Stockholm (Sweden) and Herning (Denmark).

Image: kallerna/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size