And then there were five.
USA Hockey has trimmed the number of cities looking to host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships down to five finalists: Buffalo, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; and Tampa Bay, Florida.
USA Hockey hopes to choose a host site by the end of the year.
All except Buffalo, which in 2011 hosted the last time the WJC was in America, would be a first-time host. The cities have experience with big hockey events. Each has (or in the case of Chicago, in 2017, will) hosted a Frozen Four in the 21st Century.
Buffalo has been an unofficial home to smaller USA Hockey events (the 2015 U-18 Women's World Juniors and 2014 All-American Prospects Game) while Pittsburgh hosted the All-American Prospects Game in 2013. Chicago has twice hosted the outdoor Hockey City Classic to mixed success. Tampa Bay is making a quick turnaround, hosting the 2016 Frozen Four only four years after being a first-time host of college hockey's biggest weekend.
The names on the list speak to how highly the ten country tournament, which in the US is broadcast on NHL Network and features the best under-20 men's players in the world, has grown in prominence outside WJC-rabid Canada over the last decade. Although the United States has finished fifth in each of the past two World Juniors, it has been competitive. The Americans won gold in 2010 and 2013.
Recent US hosts have been near the Canadian boarder, allowing Canadian fans an easy way to attend. Most of the finalists are not, or in the case of Tampa, about as far from the border as possible. There is no Detroit or Minneapolis or Grand Forks or Boston; cities closer to the border (and in Detroit's case, opening a new arena that year).
Normally the event is held in two separate venues with at least one being an NHL-sized arena.
Whichever city is chosen would join Minneapolis/St. Paul (1982), Anchorage (1989), Boston (1996), Grand Forks, ND/Thief River Falls, MN (2005) and Buffalo as US host cities.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate