The NHL stars of tomorrow, from across the globe, could be coming to Seattle to battle for the world’s top junior hockey championship trophy.
The city of Seattle has thrown their collective hat into the ring to serve as the stage, applying to host the 2026 IIHF World Junior Championship with games to be held at Climate Pledge Arena, a source has confirmed to 93.3 KJR-FM. It would put the home ice of the Kraken and the Emerald City in position to host games in the most prestigious junior tournament in the world, historically producing superstar NHL talent and accompanied by live national television coverage.
Multiple cities have expressed interest in hosting the tournament, slated for a return to the United States for the first time since 2018. Minneapolis/St. Paul has reportedly shown interest in hosting the tournament for the first time since 1982, while St. Louis is also in the mix with Wayne Gretzky and Keith Tkachuk reportedly on board as part of the group’s organizing committee. Gord Miller of TSN reported that Las Vegas could be in the mix as a candidate site.
Seattle will be aiming to host the event for the first time ever, potentially securing another landmark event representing the region’s substantial rise with hockey which traces back to the 20th century. The Kraken broke into the NHL as the league’s newest expansion franchise two years ago, after nearly 100 years of absence for the city’s competition for the Stanley Cup with the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association folding in 1924. What followed was a carousel of teams that occupied the Seattle hockey landscape, such as the Eskimos, Sea Hawks, Stars, Ironmen, Bombers, Americans, and Totems, before the Breakers arrived in 1977 and eventually morphed into the present day Seattle Thunderbirds.
While it’s common that two venues for one tournament are needed, a secondary host site is still to be determined. Closest to the Kraken are two major junior teams who play in the Western Hockey League, each located less than 30 minutes away.
The Thunderbirds, who came within a win of the Memorial Cup title this spring and had six players on last year’s gold medal squad with Canada, routinely pack out the 6,000-seat accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. The Everett Silvertips, whose head coach Dennis Williams led Canada (captained by Kraken prospect Shane Wright) to the World Junior title last season, play in the north sound’s Angel of the Winds Arena, seating over 8,000 fans. The Portland Winterhawks also sit just over 180 miles south and primarily compete in the 12,000 seat, 63-year old Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but also have played at the adjacent and modernized Moda Center, home of the National Basketball Association’s Portland Trail Blazers.
The eastern side of Washington is also featured with the 10,000-seat Spokane Arena, home of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, which last hosted an NHL pre-season game with the Kraken two years ago, along with Everett and Kent.
One telling signal that Seattle became ripe for the World Juniors traces back to the 2018-19 hockey season, when the Silvertips home ice hosted the United States World Junior training camp, complete with future NHL stars and standouts such as Jack Hughes, Quinn Hughes, Jason Robertson, Josh Norris, and K'Andre Miller.
Very quickly, the Silvertips positioned themselves as an interested co-host for the 2026 site.
“That’s the whole underlying thing, to not only help them out in a close location to where they’re going to be for this year’s World Juniors (but get) a chance for us to sit down with USA Hockey (to find out) if they’d consider us hosting a future World Juniors in Everett,” Silvertips chief executive officer Zoran Rajcic told the Everett Herald during USA’s camp.
Climate Pledge Arena, which opened in 1962 but has been renovated from the ground up with a $1.15 billion task, is the hockey home of the Kraken and state-of-the-art upgrades to accompany 17,151 seats for the sport. Just last year, a U.S. women's hockey record of 14,551 fans enjoyed a Rivalry Series game at Climate Pledge Arena between the United States and Canada. The venue has also twice hosted WHL games involving the Thunderbirds, Silvertips, and Chiefs.
A decision on the host city is expected to be coming this winter. This year’s tournament will be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, while the 2024-25 season event will go to Ottawa.