It’s been four days since the Prince Albert Raiders were eliminated from the Memorial Cup in Halifax.
There is, however, still a Western Canadian flavour at the national championship tournament.
With Kelowna hosting the four-team event in 2020, an Okanagan contingent was sent to pre-scout the tournament, in order to learn as much as possible in preparation for next year.
The contingent included, among others, members from the Kelowna Rockets, the city and the tournament host committee.
“We’re finding it amazing,” said 2020 tournament chair Tom Dyas. “The environment is very electric around the whole event. The community of Halifax, probably much like what will happen in Kelowna, has wrapped itself around this event.”
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Fifteen years ago, Kelowna hosted the 2004 Memorial Cup, with the Rockets defeating the Gatineau Olympiques 2-1 in the title game.
On Sunday, the host Halifax Mooseheads will play the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the final.
“To be anywhere in Halifax, in the local pubs or in the downtown core, where they’re holding the concerts, or the rink itself, it’s pretty exciting,” Dyas said of the host team making it to the championship game.
Prior to puck drop in that 2004 final between Kelowna and Gatineau, it was electric inside Prospera Place, with a standing-room crowd of 6,636.
Dyas attended that tournament, including the final, stating he remembers it “very, very well.”
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“Outside — where we were able to hold festival tents outside the rink, the additional concert areas and family fun zones, things along those lines that we’re going to adding — I’m not sure if other communities are able to duplicate exactly the experience that happened in Kelowna.
“But inside, I do see similarities, because it’s loud and everybody’s pretty happy.”
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Dyas added the hospitality in Halifax has been great.
He also said it would have been nice to see Prince Albert go further in the tournament, but teams “truly have to come out and always put your best foot forward. I think Prince Albert did, but they just regrettably didn’t come up with a win.”
As to what they’re learning, Dyas said they’ve spent time with the “very open, very gracious” 2019 host committee, “taking notes and going back and looking at what we’re going to do the same and what we’re going to even make better.
“It’s been advantageous that way.”