Director of IIHF World Junior Championship hails from Comox

Director of IIHF World Junior Championship hails from Comox

Riley Wiwchar has been roaming around the country the past 11 years, organizing major events for Hockey Canada. His latest job is director of the 2019 IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Championship, which starts Dec. 26 in Vancouver and Victoria.

“It’s been a fun job,” said Wiwchar, 33, who hails from the Comox Valley. “I run this tournament, and I do the women’s worlds as well, so I kind of move across the country. Basically every year, year-and-a-half, I move to a new city and run an event, and then go on to the next one.”

For the time being, he’s going back and forth between Vancouver and Victoria, which will co-host group stage games in the buildup to the gold medal game Jan. 5 in Vancouver.

Wiwchar was always involved in sports while growing up in Comox. After high school, he enrolled in recreation management/community development at the University of Manitoba, where he says he caught a break during an internship.

“Went to the Canada Games, moved on with the Commonwealth Games in the Caribbean. Just got lucky. I applied for a job with Hockey Canada in Calgary, got the job and then moved my way up.”

His job is all-encompassing. Ticket sales, marketing, sponsorship, operations and logistics are some of the details that fall under his umbrella.

Four international teams will be staying on Vancouver Island before the tournament begins, including the Swiss, who will be based out of the Comox Valley Sports Centre from Dec. 12-22.

“They’re really excited to be there,” Wiwchar said. “It’s cool for the people in the Valley to be able to witness it, because it’s a pretty good level of hockey.”

Some of the juniors, like Swedish forward Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks, already play in the National Hockey League.

“There’s probably a dozen players this year that may not leave the NHL that could be playing in this tournament.”

On Dec. 19, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Jr. A team host the juniors from Kazakhstan, Slovakia takes on the Czech Republic in Nanaimo, and the Swiss play defending tournament champion Canada in Victoria. There will be other pre-tourney games in Kelowna, Kamloops, Langley, Chilliwack and Burnaby.

“The tournament’s in Vancouver and Victoria, but we wanted to make sure that the rest of B.C. got to experience it,” Wiwchar said. “Every team has a legitimate chance of winning. One bounce here, there can mean the difference between first and eighth place.”

Tim Hunter, a former NHL enforcer who won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames, is head coach of Canada.

“He’s come full circle,” Wiwchar said. “He’s a really good coach. He’s got those guys focused…He’s a tough guy, he’s got that reputation, but he’s really good for the kids, too. I think they respect him. He’s got a lighter side to him as well.”

Last year’s tournament in Buffalo had some trouble filling seats, but Wiwchar said ticket sales this year have been “fantastic.” Tickets are sold out in Victoria, while Vancouver is beyond 87 per cent capacity for every game, on average.

“We never really had that worry here. It hasn’t been back (to B.C.) in 13 years, so people have been waiting for it.”

While he has fond memories of each event, the one that stands out for Wiwchar is the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Kamloops — even if Canada lost to the U.S. in the gold medal game.

“It was such a good event. The whole community got involved. The atmosphere we created in the rinks for the teams was next level. That one definitely stands out.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering shows the entrance planned for the Hornby Island Arts Centre. Image supplied
Numerous Comox Valley projects get CERIP grants

Numerous Comox Valley projects have received grants through the Community Economic Recovery… Continue reading

Thrifty Foods. (Black Press file photo)
Thrifty Foods confirms staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Courtenay

The company currently lists 12 stores within B.C. with confirmed cases

Comox Valley Schools’ distance learning program, Navigate (NIDES), which saw some large gains in enrolment this year, could see a return to normal numbers come September. Image, screenshot
Comox Valley Schools expects enrolment drop come fall

Decline projected online, as more students return to ‘bricks-and-mortar’ classes

Cumberland will be looking to a parcel tax to cover debt for its new water system. File photo
Cumberland plans for parcel tax to cover water debt

Parcel tax review panel would take place March 22, if necessary

G.P. Vanier in Courtenay has six members of the community who have tested positive; Island Health identified seven staff and 78 students who will be required to self-isolate. Black Press file photo
SD71 identifies eight positive cases of COVID-19 and instructs 108 people to self-isolate

The letter noted that all who have tested positive did not contract COVID-19 within the school sites

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

The BC SPCA is offering many chances for school-aged kids to learn about animal welfare and other animal topics. Pictured here is Keith, a three-month-old kitten seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
From pets to wildlife, BC SPCA offers animal education programs geared to youth

BC SPCA offering virtual spring break camps, workshops and school presentations

Most Read