Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

QMJHL announces 2015 Memorial Cup bids; does Chicoutimi have a shot?

The Quebec Remparts, Moncton Wildcats and Chicoutimi Saguenéens all announced their desire to host the CHL national championship in 2015. The league said Monday that three teams were the only ones to make the cut. The three teams now must make a brief to the league by mid-December to show their plans for the event.

The Remparts have by far the CHL’s best attended games since they’ve moved to the Colisée Pepsi in 2000. The Wildcats have a 7,000-seat arena and experience with the event. The Saguenéens have an aging arena, and look to be facing an uphill battle.

Two of these teams already hosted the event in the last ten years. The Remparts hosted the 2003 Memorial Cup and went 0-3. The Kitchener Rangers won the trophy over the then-Hull Olympiques on the strength of young Evan McGrath’s two goals in the final.

The Remparts came back and won the 2006 Memorial Cup over the host Wildcats in the final. The Remparts because the first, and so far only, team to win the Memorial Cup as neither the host or the league champion. The Remparts lost to the Wildcats for the QMJHL Championship, so they made the tournament as the QMJHL runners-up.

Both those tournaments give the Remparts and the Wildcats an edge. Since both teams have hosted before, they have an idea of the kind of preparation and set-up that is needed for a huge national tournament.

As well, the Colisée Pepsi underwent a renovation before the 2008 IIHF World Championship, co-hosted with Halifax. It could easily handle a Memorial Cup tournament after hosting it twice, and a world championship.

The Moncton Wildcats have been in talks for years of replacing the Moncton Coliseum, where it hosted the 2006 Memorial Cup. The city has created designs for a new arena downtown and it owns a sizable patch of land to build a new, state-of-the-art arena, but it’s still in the planning stages. It would be very difficult for the city to be able to finish an arena in time for the 2015 tournament, but the Coliseum would be a suitable host in the meantime.

Small market stepping up?

Chicoutimi Saguenéens hosted the tournament in 1988, but that was before the tournament was a massive media and business juggernaut. The Rimouski Océanic, hosts in 2009, and the Shawinigan Cataractes, hosts in 2012, showed that smaller market QMJHL teams can host a Memorial Cup in the 21st century admirably. The Cataractes had an edge on having a shiny new arena to show off, but the Centre Georges-Vézina has been in talks for renovations for a while, much like the Colisée de Rimouski did before their 2009 Memorial Cup season. There is a promise from the municipality to renovate the media facilities; hosting this tournament would only further speed up the process.

As well, small market teams have hosted the Memorial Cup in the past. Shawinigan has hosted it twice since the tournament shifted to a four-team folly in 1983, and Drummondille and Hull have hosted it as well.

The Centre Georges-Vézina in Chicoutimi seats around 4,700 people, so an ample amount of spectators, but there appears to be no room for expansion in the building. The building is very old school, built in 1949, and the extra media and team officials could overwhelm the arena. However, if the plans were made right now, with plenty of time for research and renovation, these problems could be alleviated. Some renovations, like a new video scoreboard, have already been made.

The Memorial Cup prides itself on its tradition, and the Saguenéens could easily play that card. If there’s one thing Chicoutimi knows, as one of the oldest QMJHL teams, its tradition. The Sags began play in 1974 and will celebrate their 40th anniversary next season, which they could use to play into their hosting duties.

It looks like ducks would have to be lined up in a very intricate row for Chicoutimi to have a shot at hosting, but it’s not impossible. The Sags have a slim shot against two of the league’s juggernaut markets, but Shawinigan and Rimouski have shown that small markets can win the hosting duties and knock it out of the park. There’s no reason to think that Chicoutimi can’t do the same.

The Cup host will be announced on April 4.

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