The Prince George Cougars are moving forward with their plan to apply for the 2013 Memorial Cup.
If successful, this would be the highest profile sporting event to come to the city and, of course, by landing such a prestigious tournament, it would be a huge boost for Prince George.
As a longtime Prince George resident (over 30 years), I know that people in this city are remarkable hosts.
P.G. has the facility, the accommodations, the restaurants, the volunteers (about 1,000 would be needed) and a strong corporate base as evidenced by past top-notch championships that have been held in the city. The 2007 Royal Bank Cup, the 2009 CCAA men’s basketball nationals and the 2009 Road to the Roar pre-Olympic curling trials are recent prime examples.
Moreover, this year, the World Baseball Challenge will reach new heights in July and in four years the 2015 Canada Winter Games will be featured in Prince George.
The Memorial Cup bid committee is chaired by Mark Miller with Mike Doran the vice chair. A letter of intent to the WHL, which is still being fine-tuned, has to be submitted by April 1. The deadline for an abbreviated bid package is May 15. The short list of bidders will be announced June 15 and a final bid and presentation to the league will go October 15, which is also the day the WHL will announce the winning city. The short list will likely be no more than four cities.
So, who will submit their city name? Saskatoon, Lethbridge and Kelowna have indicated publicly they want the tournament while Red Deer, Everett and Moose Jaw are among others rumoured to also be in the mix.
Realistically, I anticipate just two factors working against the Prince George bid. A small concern is the competitiveness of the host Cougars. The Canadian Hockey League does not want a weak host team. The other three teams in the tournament are league champions. Having a strong on-ice product from the host city is imperative. The Cougars have been the “weak sister” in recent years and this season, while improved, are below .500, and again struggling to make the playoffs.
However, the Cats have some promising younger players that could form the core in two years, albeit that word “potential” is overused by virtually every team. Through trades and wise moves (focusing on that 2012-13 team) there is a possibility the Cougars could be highly competitive in two years.
This leads us into a bigger issue. Small crowds (averaging roughly 2,200) at Cougars home games have become common. Why would the WHL want to reward a franchise that is near the bottom in league attendance?
“Attendance is our big issue,” admits Doran. “Our first option is to get people out to the games. There are other plans to show the league that this is a hockey community. The biggest thing is we need to be loud and vocal to support this bid. Attendance aside, it doesn’t mean it is the overall killer, but it is a huge hurdle we have to battle.”
Surprisingly, the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL, who are hosting the Memorial Cup this year, won the bid over Barrie, Kingston and Windsor, despite the fact the Majors had only 1,000 or so season ticket holders at the 5,501-seat Hershey Centre at the time they were awarded the tournament. The three other finalists play to packed arenas. (As a side note, there was a report that Mississauga owner Eugene Melnyk guaranteed a $3-million return for the OHL from the event, $1 million more than Windsor.)
The Cougars have an estimated 1,500 season ticket holders in a building that can attract nearly 6,000 fans. It should be noted that the Majors have by far the best record in the OHL this season, and their average attendance is close to 3,000 per game.
Kelowna (2004) and Saskatoon (1989) have hosted the Memorial Cup in the past. Whether that helps their case is debatable.
While I would not put Prince George as the odds-on favourite to land the tournament, I think there is a strong possibility that P.G. makes the short list. We should have a better idea next month when one can assume the bidders will be made public.
I do have one suggestion though. Although the campaign appears to stress the importance of buying more Cougars tickets (to aid the bid), the emphasis should be about promoting hockey fans to put a deposit down in good faith for 2013 Memorial Cup packages. By landing the Memorial Cup, there is no question the increase of ticket sales for the Cougars will naturally take care of itself.
From the Quote Rack:
The Chicago Cubs have announced a search is on for the next public address announcer at Wrigley Field. The job has all kinds of great benefits. Including, of course, having every October off.
Contributor Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California (www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com)
Jessica Simpson says she and ex-NFL tight end Eric Johnson are jointly planning their wedding. I saw Johnson play. Let him help with the ceremony, but don’t count on him for the reception.
And in case you missed it:
Ex-pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, the only Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame, is getting his own postage stamp as part of Canada Post’s Black History Month. Best thing about Fergie’s stamp? Your tongue only needs to hit the corners.
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sidelinechatter/)
Hartley Miller is the sports director for radio stations 94X and the Wolf@97fm. He also writes for Opinion 250. Send along a quote, note or anecdote to firstname.lastname@example.org.