It will have come as no surprise to veteran observers on Wednesday when Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, revealed that the league’s board of governors had voted to award the 2020 Memorial Cup to Kelowna.
The Rockets won out over competing bids from the Kamloops Blazers and Lethbridge Hurricanes. The three teams/cities presented their bids to the board earlier Wednesday in Calgary, following which the vote was held.
The Rockets were the host team in 2004 and they, along with their city, did a bang-up job. You can bet that they will do the same in 2020; Bruce Hamilton, their president and general manager, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Robison was quoted by lethbridgenewsnow.com as saying, in reference to the Rockets: “Very strong fan base, always a very competitive team, championship calibre team. And really, when it comes down to it, when you’re hosting a Memorial Cup . . . you have to be sure that that team is capable of putting together a championship team. And I think the confidence in (Hamilton) and his leadership on the hockey side was a key consideration.”
Of course, Hamilton also is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors. Having filled the position since 2008, he is the longest-serving chairman in the league’s history. He is widely recognized as the most powerful voice in the WHL, and that is something that will hang over the Kelowna victory, at least in the minds of some.
Someone who has sat in on similar Memorial Cup bid presentations — no, not this one — told Taking Note that at the end of the day, though, only one thing matters in these situations, and that would be the money.
If that was the case here that is really too bad because the WHL’s board of governors had an opportunity to reward a member team, its city and fans for a job well done, and the board blew it.
Assuming that the Hurricanes’ presentation didn’t bomb — and it’s hard to imagine that happening in this day and age — the governors needed to use this moment to thank the City of Lethbridge and all of the Hurricanes’ supporters, including businesses and fans, for their help in hauling the franchise out of the financial muck and mire in which it found itself after not making the playoffs for six straight seasons.
The Hurricanes were more than $700,000 in debt when the 2015-16 season started, the first one under general manager Peter Anholt. They showed a profit of $167,000 that season, then followed with two trips to the Eastern Conference final and profits of $737,710 and $422,443.
Now there’s money in the bank and no fear of not being able to make a $167,000 annual payment to the city as the team’s part of renovations to the ENMAX Centre.
Rather than reward that remarkable performance — sheesh, the commissioner went to Lethbridge in the summer of 2015 and recommended that the shareholders sell to private interests — the WHL’s governors chose to thank the Hurricanes for their time with a pat on the head and send them on their way.
And that’s really too bad.
Yes, the last four times the Memorial Cup has been held in the west it has been in an Eastern Conference city — Brandon, 2010; Saskatoon, 2013; Red Deer, 2016; and Regina, 2018. Not since it was held in Vancouver in 2007 has it been played in a Western Conference city.
However, that shouldn’t have mattered, not with the opportunity that presented itself to thank a member club and city for such a tremendous effort in recent seasons.
The 2020 Memorial Cup in Kelowna will run from May 22 through May 31. The 2019 tournament is scheduled for Halifax, May 16 through May 26.
Meanwhile, the CHL also announced Wednesday that it has a five-year deal with Kia Canada as the Memorial Cup’s title sponsor.
Mastercard, the longtime title sponsor, wasn’t mentioned during the announcement; there wasn’t even a thank you for its time in that role.
From this point forward, at least for the immediate future, the tournament will be referred to by the CHL as the Memorial Cup presented by Kia.
Three online Twitter polls involving the 2020 Memorial Cup all closed with Lethbridge in the lead.
Guy Flaming, the host of The Pipeline Show, asked his followers “which team/city do you hope to see get the nod?” There were 446 respondents, with Lethbridge getting 47 per cent of the votes. Kelowna followed at 34, with Kamloops at 19.
Taking Note also posted one, asking in which city the tournament would be held. There were 445 responses, with Lethbridge leading the way at 37 per cent, following by Kelowna (34) and Kamloops (28).
Dub Network asked its followers “who should hold” the event? Lethbridge drew 39 per cent of the votes from the 431 respondents, with Kelowna next at 34 and Kamloops at 27.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT NOTES:
The Portland Winterhawks scored five second-period goals en route to a 7-3 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops. The game marked the return of Portland assistant coach Don Hay to Kamloops, where he spent the previous four seasons as head coach. Hay is the winningest head coach in WHL history. . . . Portland got a goal and two assists from F Cody Glass, who has nine points in three games. . . . The Winterhawks make their final appearance of this season in Kamloops on Friday. . . .
The Vancouver Giants put a damper on celebrations in Kelowna by beating the host Rockets, 5-0. Earlier in the day, the Rockets had been named the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup. . . . F James Malm scored three straight goals for the Giants, giving him a league-leading seven in five games, while G Trent Miner recorded his first WHL clean sheet with 21 saves. . . .
F Noah Gregor had two assists in his first game with Prince Albert as the Raiders beat the Tigers, 5-1, in Medicine Hat. . . . The Raiders, who got two goals and an assist from F Max Martin, now are 6-0-0; the Tigers have lost five in a row. . . . F James Hamblin of the Tigers, playing in his 200th WHL game, came up short on a first-period penalty shot. . . .
F Kirby Dach had three points, giving him 12 in six games, as the Saskatoon Blades scored a 5-3 victory over the host Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . The Oil Kings lost for the first time in six starts this season; the Blades (4-2-0) had lost their previous two games.
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