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London Knights hosting 2014 Memorial Cup not wrong, just an indicator of OHL’s priorities

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The London Knights face Saskatoon in the MasterCard Memorial Cup opener on Friday (OHL Images)

Too soon? Of course it is. The London Knights cannot be blamed, though, for putting together a successful bid for the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup. There is no statute that bars a team from hosting the tournament twice within four three-year cycles.

Judging by the reaction, though, London winning the bid for next season over the Barrie Colts — double whammy — and Windsor Spitfires after the franchise previously hosted in 2005 is not sitting it well. It's not as if anyone expected anything differently. The Knights' confluence of having the 9,000-seat Budweiser Gardens, know-how from their previous turn as host and a returning core of talent from their freshly minted championship team screams surefire winner for the Ontario Hockey League and the CHL.

So London's not the problem. The problem is the growing perception that, at least when it's the OHL's turn to host, the tournament often has the same metamorphosis that has moved the world junior championship beyond midsized Canadian cities. The Colts, whose Barrie Molson Centre seats 4,195, have bid for the tournament five times and come up empty-handed.

The OHL, based on its actions, seems less willing than its CHL brethren in the Quebec and Western leagues to go into a smaller city that takes the tournament into its warm embrace for 10 days and make it feel like a little hockey village. Based on the seating capacities of the teams which have hosted when it is the OHL's turn, no wonder the small markets other than Barrie have stepped out of the bid process. The other leagues are just as market-driven, but still make room to let a smaller city with a more modestly sized arena take a turn now and then.

OHL

2014, London: 9,100
2011, Mississauga: 5,800
2008, Kitchener: 6,268
2005, London: 9,100
2002, Guelph: 5,195

QMJHL
2012, Shawinigan: 4,125
2009, Rimouski: 4,285
2006, Moncton: 6,554
2003, Quebec: 15,176
2000, Halifax: 10,595

WHL
2013, Saskatoon: 15,190
2010, Brandon: 5,102
2007, Vancouver: 16,281
2004, Kelowna: 6,007 (6,886 with standing room)
2001, Regina: 6,136

This is just a quick, back of a napkin way of looking at it. Please keep in mind that generally speaking, the WHL has more venues where crowds of 5,000 to 7,000 are both lawful (and likely). One has to go back to 1996 at Peterborough to see the last time the OHL went with a smaller venue.

You wouldn't blame Barrie, after having invested a lot of money and humanpower into bidding so often, if it decided not to do so again. Just like the OHL final itself, where they fought tooth and nail while star players Anthony Camara and Mark Scheifele were taken away from them and lost twice on the last shot of the night, what more is Barrie supposed to do?

Bottom line, the might-is-right of the Knights isn't the problem, it's the OHL business model it thrives within.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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