The Memorial Cup is returning to B.C.
Given recent history, when B.C. teams host the national championship tournament, good things happen: The Kamloops Blazers hosted and won in 1995, the Kelowna Rockets hosted and won in 2004 and the Vancouver Giants hosted and won in 2007.
In the early 1990s, the Blazers were the toast of the junior hockey world, winning the Cup in 1992 plus back-to-back in ’94 and ’95. Since then, though, Kamloops hasn’t been back to the four-team event.
“We are very excited to bring back the Memorial Cup to Kamloops after an almost 30-year hiatus,” said CHL president Dan MacKenzie. “The Blazers and the City of Kamloops put together a first-class bid and will be outstanding hosts.”
“On behalf of the Kamloops Blazers Owner Group and our host organizing committee, we are so pleased to have been able to secure this event for our communities,” said host organizing committee chairperson Norman Daley.
“We are ready to engage our fans, partners, and volunteers to make the 2023 Memorial Cup special.”
Arguably one of the hardest trophies to win due to a short playing window of four years, unlike professional sports, Kelowna was slated to host the Memorial Cup in 2020.
However, the coronavirus pandemic derailed those plans, with the CHL cancelling the 2020 tournament on March 12, 2020, roughly two months before the event was slated to take place at Prospera Place in downtown Kelowna.
The CHL also cancelled the 2021 tournament, which was slated to be played in either Oshawa or Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The 2022 tournament will run from June 20 to June 29 in Saint John, N.B.
No dates have been announced for the 2023 tournament, which normally takes place in late May.
As for Kelowna, the Rockets said on Friday they wanted to throw their hat in the bidding ring for the 2023 Cup but didn’t.
“When we submitted our intent to bid, there was an audit conducted of Prospera Place, commissioned by the Rockets, the City of Kelowna, and the GSL Group, who own, operate and manage the arena,” the Rockets said in a press release.
“This audit found that there were significant deficiencies that needed to be upgraded for the facility to meet the CHL standards for hosting the Memorial Cup.
“Ultimately, an agreement with the Rockets, City of Kelowna, and the GSL Group could not be reached to make the necessary capital improvements to the building. As a result, the building did not meet the minimum standards required to host the event by the CHL, and consequently, the Rockets could not proceed with our bid to host the 2023 Memorial Cup.”
It’s not known what the issues are, but one concern is dressing rooms for the players. While the Rockets have a large room, visiting teams to Prospera Place are usually squeezed into two smaller rooms.
Further, when Kelowna hosted the 2004 Memorial Cup, which the Rockets won, two portable dressing rooms had to be built outside the rink for the third and fourth teams, which happened to be the OHL and QMJHL champions.
In an email to Global News, the City of Kelowna said it was “disappointed the Memorial Cup tournament will not be in our city for 2023. We will continue to work with the Kelowna Rockets organization to advocate for the building upgrades needed to host high-calibre events in the future.”
Global News has reached out to GSL Group.
Since 2000, B.C. teams have played in the Memorial Cup 10 times.
The Rockets played in the tournament in 2003, 2004 (winning as hosts, but not as WHL champions, having lost in the playoff semifinals), 2005, 2009 and 2015. In 2009 and 2015, Kelowna lost in the finals.
The Kootenay Ice, which relocated to Winnipeg, played in 2000, 2002 (winning in Guelph, Ont.) and 2011.
The Vancouver Giants played in 2006 and 2007, winning as WHL champions and tournament hosts.
During the past three seasons, the Blazers have been the top team in B.C. This spring, they are playing the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Conference final.
The winner will meet the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL championship, with that winner advancing to the 2022 Memorial Cup as WHL representatives.