The CHL just released its guidelines for bidding and two teams from each member league will ultimately get a chance to make their cases. Should the prized 2018 tournament go to a traditional favorite, or a city that can bring in the most fans and media attention? We break down some options.
The CHL just announced the bidding guidelines for the 100th Memorial Cup, which is to take place in 2018. While hosting duties are usually given out on a rotating basis to a team from the OHL, WHL or QMJHL, the centennial showdown is open to cities from all three circuits – so while technically it should be the Quebec League’s turn, it may not turn out that way.
The three leagues will conduct their own bid processes and then submit up to two potential hosts by Nov. 16, 2016. A National Site Selection Committee will hear the bids no later than Jan. 31, 2017 and make a final decision by the first week of February.
So which cities could we see in the running? Let’s break it down.
Quebec Remparts: Sure, the Remparts just hosted the Memorial Cup in 2015, but now they have a shiny new NHL-sized arena to host in. Quebec City has plenty of hotels, it’s easy to get to (i.e. major airport) and I have to say, has incredible volunteers and planners. I attended the 2015 Memorial Cup and it was one of the best media experiences I’ve ever had. Plus, the Remparts have no trouble attracting talent, so the host team will be solid.
Halifax Mooseheads: Like Quebec, Halifax is easy to get to (I mean, it’s far if you’re out West, but at least there would be direct flights). The Mooseheads’ arena holds 11,000 people and the team even has a recent Memorial Cup title thanks to Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Zach Fucale.
Honorable Mention: Saint John. The Sea Dogs don’t have a huge rink, but they will have potential top 2018 NHL draft prospect Joe Veleno in the lineup and that would be a nice storyline among all the others. They’ve also been hosed in the past by the QMJHL committee, so this would be a nice make-good.
Edmonton Oil Kings: All the amenities of an NHL city, but with a great junior tradition on top. Edmonton teams have been playing for the Memorial Cup since the 1930s and the Oil Kings won it most recently in 2014. The fact the brand-new Rogers Place arena has a capacity of 18,647 doesn’t hurt, either. Much of the same Edmonton arguments can be made for Calgary and the Hitmen, but the Saddledome is incredibly dated; if you’re going to have the party in an Alberta NHL city, Edmonton makes much more sense.
Regina Pats: The Pats bill themselves as the oldest major junior franchise in existence, first stepping out in 1917, so there is some great tradition here. Regina actually lost the very first Memorial Cup in 1919 and hosting would give them a nice chance for revenge (though I’m pretty sure the University of Toronto Schools team won’t be allowed to participate). The Brandt Centre isn’t big, but it’s big enough at 6,136 capacity (about the same as Saint John).
Kitchener Rangers: Another tradition pick, the Rangers put serious upgrades into their arena in recent years, so it’s good to go on the hosting front. Kitchener is a community-owned team in a mid-sized Canadian city, so it pretty much represents everything major junior purports to be. The Rangers consistently produce NHLers and there’s no reason to believe that will stop anytime soon. Maybe you even get visits from alumni such as Scott Stevens, Larry Robinson and Al MacInnis.
London Knights: The New York Yankees of hockey did just host in 2014, but when you’ve got a sweet arena and a team that is almost always a threat to win the whole thing, it’s hard to turn down. This would drive a lot of other OHL cities nuts, but you can’t knock London’s credentials.
The Cynical But Pragmatic Pick
Toronto: Ohhh, I know most of y’all will hate me for this one, but I contacted the CHL and the host team doesn’t have to use its own arena for its bid. Which means that the Mississauga Steelheads or Oshawa Generals could toss their hats in the ring, but offer to host at the Air Canada Centre. The only rule is that there are no joint bids, so Sauga and the Shwa couldn’t bid together.
Why Toronto? Because that’s where the first Memorial Cup was held and that’s where the first champs came from. In fact, seven of the first 10 tournaments were held in Toronto and many after that. Hosting the tournament in Toronto gives you maximum media coverage and, let’s face it, maximum revenues. The fly in the ointment? Attendance could go one of two ways. The world juniors were a huge success in 2015, but a previous CHL Top Prospects Game was a flop. Perhaps a safer bet would be…
Winnipeg: The first city other than Toronto to host the Memorial Cup, back in 1922. Winnipeg’s bid would have to come from the province’s only WHL team, the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Wheaties are a premier outfit and if they bid to host in Winnipeg, they’d be getting an MTS Centre with about triple the capacity of their own arena.
Ottawa and Vancouver could make similar bids, as could Montreal (ha ha, just kidding. If the Habs aren’t playing, no one will show up. See: world juniors).
I’m also going to assume that American teams will be shut out of the process, because otherwise Don Cherry will hit his fainting couch like a Downton Abbey character.
Otherwise, we’ve got options, people. I’m going to assume the CHL wants to make a splash for the 100th edition of the Memorial Cup and that likely favors bigger major junior markets. But we’ve been surprised in the past, so who knows?