On a few occasions, Rod Brown has been fortunate enough to see his Saint John Seadogs battle it out for the Memorial Cup, but this year, the season ticket holder is happy to have them back home.
“This is actually my third Memorial Cup because I’ve seen them play in Mississauga, I’ve seen them win it in Mississauga, and I’ve also seen them play in Windsor, Ont., where unfortunately they didn’t do as well,” said Brown, a Saint John resident.”
Brown is one of the many fans that have brought newfound energy to Uptown Saint John in recent days for the Memorial Cup.
Fans from across the nation have found themselves in the Port City for hockey. But, it’s the host city and its endless list of Memorial Cup events that have stolen the show.
Yoland Gilbert of Montreal came to support his Shawinigan Cataractes, and though he hasn’t had too much time to explore, first impressions are positive.
“Other than the game, the hockey games, no not yet, but right now I’m walking to Area 506 to visit the place to see how it looks — it looks great,” he said, while proudly donning a Cataractes hat.
Since Saint John earned the right to call itself the host of the 2022 Memorial Cup, organizers have made it known it would be about more than hockey.
Events beginning after the trophy was extravagantly delivered by helicopter have included activities, concerts and speakers.
Much of the action — outside of the games — has taken place at the recently-opened Area 506 Waterfront Container Village, where musicians have entertained fans before puck drop.
“We’ve seen lineups waiting to get in to see our performances that we have lined all the way down graffiti alley here in the waterfront container village, and that’s been a really great thing to see where people are really excited to get out, enjoy the weather, enjoy the sun and enjoy the Saint John hospitality,” said Ray Gracewood, a local event manager for the Memorial Cup and the founder of Area 506.
Even fans unable to attend the game have been able to watch the action from the screen in the container village concert venue, said Gracewood.
When asked about what’s made Saint John successful in its hosting duties, Gracewood credited their approach as a “multi-faceted event” that’s used all the region’s strengths to provide something for everyone.
Gracewood believes the tournament has not only aided to re-establish Saint John as a welcoming city, but it’s helped to showcase his venue.
“The feedback of the uniqueness of the venue and how cool it is, not just in the region, but right across Canada, is a great indicator of the reputation that we’re about to build,” Gracewood said.
Busy uptown streets have been a bonus for local businesses as well, who are thrilled by the opportunity to welcome residents and tourists.
David Duplisea is the CEO of the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce.
“We still see every venue is crowded, but estimates are upwards of $10 million, which is significant economic impact for our region,” Duplisea said, adding those figures are based on how Halifax fared when it hosted the tournament.
The Memorial Cup is a catalyst, Duplisea said, which puts Saint John on the national stage, opening the door for future events of significance.
“Success breeds success and attention and attraction breeds attention and attraction, so the more successful events we have such as this, the easier it becomes to attract more of them as well.”
However, for many in Sea Dogs Nation, it’s all for not if the team can’t put another championship banner in the rafters. They will continue on their quest for the Memorial Cup Saturday with a matchup against Shawinigan.