It is time for hockey fans and the media alike to come to the realization, if they haven’t already, that events like the Memorial Cup and Royal Bank Cup don’t decide national championships.
They are entertainment vehicles and social gatherings and nothing more, and should be enjoyed as such.
They also are showcases for the players who are fortunate enough to get to participate in the tournaments. Fans also are guaranteed to see some of the best teams in major junior and junior A hockey, so the games mostly are competitive and, as such, entertaining.
But so long as the formats include host teams and round-robin play, these events don’t culminate with the crowning of national champions.
The 2018 Memorial Cup, the 100th anniversary of the trophy, was played in Regina over the past few days. It concluded Sunday with the QMJHL-champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan beat the host Pats, 3-0.
To reach the final, the Pats, who had lost out in the first round of the WHL playoffs, eliminated two league champions — the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Pats didn’t have it on Sunday and were beaten by a superior team in the Titan.
After losing to the Pats in the final game of the round-robin and falling to 0-3, the Broncos talked of injuries and fatigue, their 26-game run to the Ed Chynoweth Cup apparently having taking a toll.
But are the Pats the better team because they won one particular game in a round-robin tournament?
Regina and Swift Current met six times in the regular season — the Broncos were 5-0-1, the Pats were 1-4-1. The Broncos wound up at 48-17-7, while the Pats finished 40-25-7.
In the playoffs, the Broncos took out the Pats in a first-round series that went seven games.
In 14 meetings between the teams this season, then, the Broncos were 9-4-1.
But on one night in May, the Pats won, 6-5. Does that mean Regina was the better team? No. It means that on any given day . . .
Meanwhile, in the world of junior A hockey, the host Chilliwack Chiefs won the Royal Bank Cup, which is a five-team tournament. Does that mean the Chiefs won the national championship and are junior A’s best team?
Consider that they finished the BCHL’s regular season at 26-26-3, with three ties. That left them fourth in the Mainland Division, 16 points out of first place. They then lost a seven-game first-round series to the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Meanwhile, the Wenatchee Wild was 37-16-4, with one tie, and third in the Interior Division, seven points out of first place. The Wild then went 16-4 to win the BCHL playoff championship. Wenatchee followed that with a five game Doyle Cup victory over the AJHL-champion Spruce Grove Saints.
At the RBC, Wenatchee won its four round-robin games, two in OT, including a 2-1 victory over Chilliwack. The Chiefs won three times, once in OT, and had the one OT loss.
During the round-robin, the Wild beat the Wellington Dukes, 7-1. But in a semifinal game, the Dukes posted a 2-1 victory, despite having been outshot 51-14.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, beat the Ottawa Jr. Senators, 3-2, in the other semifinal, then doubled the Dukes, 4-2, in the final.
Does all of this mean that Chilliwack is a better team than Wenatchee. No. It means that during one week in May things went the Chiefs’ way, just like things didn’t go Swift Current’s way the following week.
So, as long as there are host teams and round-robin formats, let’s stop concerning ourselves with national championships and just enjoy the proceedings.
The Memorial Cup final was nearing the end of the second period on Sunday when I heard from a long-time reader of this blog.
The message: “If I hear Mastercard one more time I’m gonna lose my (crap).”
If you are a regular visitor here, you will be well aware that this is one of my all-time pet peeves.
There are some things in life that should never have price tags placed on them, and the Memorial Cup is one of them.
Would the NHL sell naming rights to the Stanley Cup to, say, Visa? The Visa Stanley Cup?
How about the NBA? Would it turn its major trophy into the American Express Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy?
The winner of the NFL’s Super Bowl is awarded the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The team that wins MLB’s World Series gets the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Win the WHL title and you get the Ed Chynoweth Cup, not the Nike Ed Chynoweth Cup.
The Memorial Cup has been in competition since 1919, and if you understand its origin I think you will agree that naming rights to it never should have been on the table.
Here’s William J. Walshe, writing in the Kingston Whig-Standard on Jan. 6, 1939:
“The (Memorial) cup, coveted prize of Canadian junior hockey, was the brainchild of Capt. Jim (Sutherland) when he was overseas in the Great War (1914–18) and at the time, President of the Ontario Hockey Association (1915–17). He wrote suggesting the trophy in memory of the boys who were killed in the war and no doubt a big part of the idea was instigated by his devotion to his beloved (Alan) Scotty Davidson, who fell (June 6, 1915) with many other hockey players in the world conflict . . .”
Peter Robinson has more on the origin of the Memorial Cup right here.
Robinson writes, in part: “As the generation that it was originally meant to honour has passed on with the last surviving First World War veteran John Babcock’s death in 2010, the trophy now serves as a commemoration for all the country’s war dead and others that served.”
The 2018 Memorial Cup, held at the Brandt Centre in Regina:
Game 1, Friday, May 18 – Regina 3, Hamilton 2 (5,678)
Game 2, Saturday, May 19 – Acadie-Bathurst 4, Swift Current 3 (OT) (6,237)
Game 3, Sunday, May 20 – Acadie-Bathurst 8, Regina 6 (5,832)
Game 4, Monday, May 21 – Hamilton 2, Swift Current 1 (5,820)
Game 5, Tuesday – Hamilton 3, Acadie-Bathurst 2 (6,072)
Game 6, Wednesday – Regina 6, Swift Current 5 (6,484)
Thursday — Day off.
Friday’s Semifinal – Regina 4, Hamilton 2 (6,484)
Saturday — No Game Scheduled.
Sunday’s Final — Acadie-Bathurst 3, Regina 0 (6,484)
F Cam Braes (Lethbridge, Moose Jaw, 2008-12) signed a one-year contract with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Thurgau (Switzerland, NL B), he had 25 goals and 22 assists in 45 games. He was second on the team in goals and points.
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F Massimo Rizzo, who was a first-round selection, 14th overall, in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft, told the Kamloops Blazers prior to the 2018 bantam draft that he wouldn’t be playing for them. On Saturday afternoon, Rizzo tweeted that he will attend the U of North Dakota and play for the Fighting Hawks, likely starting with the 2019-20 season.
Rizzo, from Burnaby, B.C., played last season with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees, putting up 38 points, including 13 goals, in his 16-year-old season. He was named the Vees’ captain earlier this month.
“It was a hard decision, especially being from Western Canada,” Rizzo told Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. “Just seeing the success of players going through college and to the NHL, and feeling that I needed a bit more time to develop and grow and get stronger, and talking to people who went that route and the experience they had, that’s kind of why I decided to do it.”
According to Schlossman, Rizzo “chose UND over Denver, Wisconsin and Michigan.”
Rizzo will be the fourth recent Penticton captain to attend UND, following D Troy Stecher, F Tyson Jost and F Nick Jones.
Rizzo is the only one of the 21 first-round selections from the 2016 bantam draft not to sign with a WHL team.
The Calgary Hitmen have signed F Sean Tschigerl and D Tyson Galloway to WHL contracts. . . . Tschigerl, from Whitecourt, Alta., was the fourth overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. He had 70 points, including 31 goals, in 30 games with the OHA Edmonton bantam prep team. . . . Galloway, from Kamloops, played for the bantam prep team at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C. He had three goals and 11 assists in 29 games. Galloway was a second-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft.
Clayton Jardine, 27, is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers. He takes over from Geoff Grimwood, who left the club earlier this month. . . . Jardine, a native of Lacombe, Alta., was an assistant coach under Grimwood in 2015-16. Jardine spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at New England College, an NCAA Division III school. . . . The Klippers also announced that Larry Wintoneak will be returning as an assistant coach. Wintoneak has been with the Klippers for four seasons in what is his second go-round in Kindersley.