COURTENAY, B.C. – The Swiss elite are coming to the Comox Valley.

Switzerland’s national U20 team will be in the Valley from Dec. 12 to 22 for a pre-tournament camp as the squad prepares for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.

The world tournament will be co-hosted by Vancouver and Victoria from Dec. 26, 2018 to Jan. 5, 2019.

Team Switzerland fell in the quarterfinals of last year’s world tournament. This year, the team is in the ultra-tough Group A with Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Denmark.

Hockey Canada approached the Comox Valley Regional District’s senior manager of recreation facilities Jennifer Zbinden, asking if the district would be willing to host a team for a pre-tournament camp.

“We said yes, and the Swiss team actually chose to come to the Comox Valley,” said CVRD  program director Regan Jamieson.

BC Hockey CEO Barry Petrachenko told the MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom said part of the reason why Vancouver/Victoria won the tournament bid was the organizers’ intentions to make it a B.C.-wide event.

“It was always our intent to… spread out into as many of our member towns as we could,” Petrachenko said. “Since our bid went in, we have been planning to take pre-tournament events and games into communities between the two host sites.”

The Comox Valley has built a reputation of being a strong host of high calibre hockey events, according to Jamieson. The Comox Valley co-hosted the 2009 World U17 Hockey Championships held in Courtenay, Campbell River, Duncan, Nanaimo, Parksville, and Port Alberni from Dec. 29, 2008 to Jan. 4, 2009.

“We’re on the radar as being a good host community,” Jamieson said.

The team has 16 different ice slots booked at the Comox Valley Sports Centre to practice and get its systems down ahead of the world juniors.

“They’re going to showcase their skills and drills and practice, before heading down south for the world juniors,” Jamieson said.

The public is invited to watch the players in action and admission to the sports centre is free.

Jamieson said this is a big thrill for the community.

“It not only brings in this level of hockey to our community to showcase a higher level, but for our hockey community, too,” Jamieson said. “For the kids who can’t go down and watch a world juniors game, they can still come out here and watch them play and be a part of that community.”

Petrachenko said the event is unbelievable live but is also a big part of the Canadian holiday fabric.

He noted that Switzerland has been in the top pool for more than a decade and have produced top NHL players, including Nico Hischier, who was selected No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils in the 2017 NHL Draft.

The ice slots are as follows:

Dec. 13 – 9:00-11 a.m. (Arena 2) and  4:30-6:30 p.m. (Arena 1)

Dec. 14 – 8:15-10:15 a.m  (Arena 1) and 4:30-6:30 p.m.  (Arena 1)

Dec. 15 – 8:30-10:30 a.m. (Arena 2) and 5:15-7:15 p.m. (Arena 2)

Dec. 16 – 9:30-11:30 a.m. (Arena 2) and 4:30-6:30 p.m. (Arena 2)

Dec. 17 – 10:00-11:30 a,m. (Arena 1) and 4:15-6:15 p.m. (Arena 2)

Dec. 18 – 8:30-10:30 a.m. (Arena 2) and 5 -7 p.m.  (Arena 2)

Dec. 19 – 8:45-10:15 a.m. (Arena 2)

Dec. 20 -2:30-4:30 p.m. (Arena 2)

Dec. 21 – 8:15-10:15 a.m. (Arena 2)

Dec. 22 – 10:45-12:15 p.m. (Arena 2)