Mooseheads, Eagles, and Sea Dogs bid for 2012 Memorial Cup
The Memorial Cup may be coming to the Maritimes in a couple of years. Halifax, Cape Breton and Saint John all submitted bids, along with the Shawinigan Cataractes, to host Major Junior hockey’s national championship tournament in 2012.
The host team is will be picked on a number of criteria, but one important factor is being able to ice a contending team. The host team is typically one projected to have a very good shot at making it to the tournament even if they were not the host. The remaining three teams earn their spots by winning their individual leagues.
At first glance it might be difficult to project who will be a contender because so much is based on how prospects will develop. However, at least one team is looking to string together three consecutive contending seasons.
The Saint John Sea Dogs are currently ranked second in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), behind this year’s Memorial Cup host, the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. The Sea Dogs spent 23 weeks in the rankings last season before falling to the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL finals. Despite being contenders this year and last, the Sea Dogs will have a strong returning core next season.
Saint John boasts a number of players that are looked upon as quality prospects for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. As they have a number of players already drafted that could return, some as overagers.
The Halifax Mooseheads are prime example of the difficulty in projecting a contending team. The Mooseheads are entering a rebuilding year with a number of young talent players that could have them contending by 2012. They’re led by Martin Frk, who isn’t eligible for the upcoming draft, but is already getting consideration as a top pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Think of the excitement if Halifax hosted the Memorial Cup with the potential #1 overall pick leading the way.
A double-edged sword for the Mooseheads will be that they hosted the Memorial Cup in 2000. While it will demonstrate how well Halifax can successfully pull of the event, there is a natural disposition to award it to markets that have not had the opportunity to host the event. Halifax can also point to a number of international hockey tournaments as proof of the success they will have. Halifax hosted 2003 World Junior Championship, the 2004 Women’s World Hockey Championship and co-hosted the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championships with Quebec City.
“I think the only challenge is the fact that we hosted the Memorial Cup in 2000 and whether or not people think somebody else should have a turn,” said Mooseheads owner Bobby Smith earlier this summer. “It certainly isn’t one of the listed criteria, to be on some kind of a rotating system. I don’t think that should work against us.”
Sydney, the Screaming Eagles hometown, was also part of the 2003 World Junior tournament and that will surely be mentioned in its bid. Cape Breton has never hosted the Memorial Cup, and has a team that will compete hard this year and the potential to be better next year.
Shawinigan looks to also be a strong competitor for the 2012 Cup. The Cataractes were the hosts in 1985, but only the first two games were played in Shawinigan. The Aréna Jacques-Plante (AKA Shawingian Municipal Auditorium) has a number of support columns in the seats, and televising games from the building proved impossible. Drummondville was chosen as an alternate venue, although the Voltigeurs did not participate in the tournament. Addressing this issue with a new building is now one of the strengths of the Cataractes bid along with their long history in the league.
A brief which underlines the ability of bidding franchises to host the event must be forwarded to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s head office prior to November 30. The independent committee will then begin touring potential sites in early 2011 with a decision coming in April.
If I had to put money on it, my early favourite is Saint John. They have top-notch facilities and a team that looks to be very competitive this year and next. Certainly, as a Cape Bretoner living in Halifax, I will be rooting for the two Nova Scotia bids.
Whether hosting or hoisting it, hopefully one of the Maritime teams will get the Memorial Cup in 2012.
Let me know who you want to see host the 2012 Memorial Cup and why?