With all three Canadian Hockey Leagues (Western, Quebec and Ontario) having announced return-to-play dates for the 2020-2021 season, the stage is now set for the city of Oshawa to continue with its bid to host junior hockey’s most prestigious tournament, the Memorial Cup.
The annual tournament was cancelled in spring of this year for the first time in its history due to COVID-19.
Oshawa and Sault Ste. Marie are the two finalists to host the Memorial Cup next spring.
The Canadian Hockey League has yet to set a date on when they will make their decision, but Roger Hunt, Oshawa’s vice-president and general manager, is ready for the Generals to host.
“We’re ready to go. We’re ready to host. Just give us the ball and we’ll run with it,” said Hunt.
The last time Oshawa played host to the tournament was 1987 where they fell 6-2 in the final game to the Medicine Hat Tigers, in no small part due to Tigers’ forward Trevor Linden’s player of the game performance.
Linden went on to have a lengthy NHL career before becoming president of hockey operations and alternate governor of the Vancouver Canucks.
The Generals were last in – and won – the Memorial Cup in 2015. Hunt pointed out the Generals had to go through some quality players to win that title.
“The best player in the world, back then we beat out in the OHL finals and probably the second-best player in the world right now we beat out in the Memorial Cup finals. We didn’t have that level of player but man oh man I’ll tell you we had an incredible team,” Hunt said.
The two players he is referring to are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, now with the Edmonton Oilers.
Hunt said he will be pleased for the fans if the tournament comes to Oshawa.
“Let’s face it—we lost GM (General Motors)—we lost some things— I think the city, the region, the county, we’re ready to get some good news here,” Hunt said.
In a COVID-19 world the opportunity does not come without its challenges.
Hunt pointed out, as well as upgrades to the Tribute Communities Centre, there is a financial component to the proposal. When you make a bid to host the Memorial Cup – there is a financial commitment – and through championship attendance the Generals hope to claw that money back.
Whether there will be fans in the stands or not is still undecided, though rising cases of COVID-19 may ultimately make that decision.
However, there is still room for things to change since the tournament is not slated to start until June of 2021.
If people cannot be inside the Tribute Communities Centre, Ivano Labricciosa of the Oshawa BIA (Business Improvement Area) says creativity is the answer.
“Imagine if we could broadcast it in open areas in the city, in a parking lot, or places adjacent to the five thousand seat arena,” Labricciosa added. “What if we connected it and broadcasted it through a high speed internet and had that broadcast reach globally?
“It’s got huge economic spinoff in terms of pulling off a great showcase event,” Labricciosa said.
Like a poetic song lyric reminiscent of Gord Downie from the Tragically Hip, Hunt referenced his memories of the Generals 2015 Memorial Cup win by stating, “I’ll never forget one day when we were in Quebec City.”
Should Oshawa win its bid to host the Memorial Cup, perhaps Generals’ fans will have an opportunity to create a fond memory of their own.