Oshawa should host the 2018 Memorial Cup

Picture drawn by Toby VanWeston

Oshawa is one of the three cities shortlisted to host the 2018 MasterCard Memorial Cup.   On Jan. 25, a delegation from the Oshawa Generals placed a bid in front of the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) selection committee in Toronto.  The city last hosted the Memorial Cup thirty years ago.

Given the tournament’s importance and history, Oshawa is the perfect choice and is long overdue to host the event.

The Memorial Cup was originally known as the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) Memorial Cup, and was donated by the OHA in March 1919 in honour of the thousands of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the First World War. The tournament unites the host city’s team with the champions of the three junior hockey leagues, the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), in a round-robin series.  The top two teams play off in a sudden-death game to determine the winner.

The Oshawa Generals should have this one in the bag.  They have hoisted the cup a record five times and are the oldest franchise in the OHL. They continue to provide the National Hockey League (NHL) with talented young players, and have been the most successful team in CHL history.

The Generals also have some star power.  NHL legend and Oshawa Hall-of-Famer, Eric Lindros, is an ex-General player, as is New Jersey Devil’s Marc Savard and New York Islander’s John Tavares.  All three would most certainly participate in the celebrations at the Tribute Communities Centre.

If there was any doubt the ‘Gens are committed to hosting the tournament next year, it was put to rest earlier this month when the team traded its top two players.  Anthony Cirelli and Mitchell Vande Sompel, major contributors to the General’s first place position in the East, were traded-away for younger talent and draft picks. This two-star trade put the Generals in a better position for next season. The selection committee aims to award it to a competitive team. By acquiring younger talent, guaranteed to be with them next season, the Generals ensure a strong challenge. The trades sent a clear message to the fans and the league: Oshawa is determined to host next year’s Memorial Cup.

The OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs and the WHL’s Regina Pats are the two rival cities vying for a chance to host the competition’s 100th anniversary year. Hamilton just recently became a team in 2015. They were formerly the Belleville Bulls for 34 years before relocating.

Regina is the oldest franchise in the CHL but the Pats have not had the same success as the ‘Gens despite winning three Memorial Cups in 1925,1930, and 1974.

While the Generals have the smallest arena of the three franchises, they average the highest attendance. Selling tickets is one of the main priorities of the selection committee, so a smaller arena may work against the Generals. On the other hand, it could also be a benefit for them. At the 2015 tournament in Quebec City the games were played at Colisée Pepsi, an arena with a capacity of over 15,000.  The average attendance during the tournament was only around 8,000.  The half-full arena was a bad reflection on the league. Perhaps this will steer the CHL away from Hamilton’s 17,000-seat barn and draw them to Oshawa where they can be assured a capacity crowd at every game.

Oshawa has all the requirements the CHL looks for in a host city. Specifically, a top-end arena, restaurants and hotels for fans, and a competitive team.

Although Oshawa has the smallest population of the three cities, there is easy access to the Tribute Communities Centre, formerly the GM Centre.  Oshawa is a short train journey from Toronto, once referred to as, “The centre of the hockey universe,” by astronaut Chris Hadfield in an interview from space. The region also offers a range of accommodations with more than 1,500 hotel rooms.

Finally, Oshawa is no newcomer to hosting premier sporting events.  In 2015 athletes from around the world were welcomed at the Pan Am Games for events at the Generals home arena.

Given these points, the Generals are the perfect choice to host the 100th Memorial Cup in 2018.  They have a modern arena, a large fan base and a long and successful history. It is time to bring the tournament to Oshawa where it belongs. Let’s hope the selection committee thinks the same when they make their decision next month.