April 03, 2014
The Memorial Cup bid process is broken all to hell, yet one probably will not mind in 13 months' time when they get to spend 10 days in May in Quebec City.
In a decision that shocked no one outside of the Saguenay region, the Quebec Remparts won the 2015 host bid on Thursday in an unanimous vote over the lone other bidder, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. Only having two bidders for an event that is still ostensibly held to decide the country's major junior hockey champion exacerbates the two-tiered nature of the Canadian Hockey League, and one could even go so far to say it can work against the event's credibility if the host team proves to be a dud on the national stage, but one that can sell a lot of tickets (see, Blades, Saskatoon, 2013).
The process that prices out almost everyone notwithstanding, selecting the Remparts over Chicoutimi is a tap-in. Quebec pretty much plays in a different league financially than the rest of the Q, averaging more than 2½ many times as fans as all but two Maritime teams, the Halifax Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats. The Colisée Pepsi is also nearing the end of its run with the New Colisée due to open later next year, so the QMJHL is making the easy call to take the tournament to its biggest market before its turf is potentially contracted by the return of a National Hockey League team.
That said, it's still a flawed system that produced an otherwise logical outcome, just as when the London Knights got this season's tournament over the Barrie Colts, whose arena has fewer than half the capacity of Budweiser Gardens. It was a similar story with Saskatoon, the 2013 host, who gave the Western Hockey League the chance to stage the event in a 15,000-seat building.
It's the age-old Peter Gent 'every time I call it game you call it a business' conundrum. Would that there was incentive to change it and keep the tournament in the midsize cities where it's the only game in town for 10 days stretched across weekend, with raucous fans right on top on the action (to be fair, that was the case in Rimouski in 2009, Brandon in '10 and Shawinigan in '12). As it stands, the big-building team wins the bid and the league hopes it will have two viable tournament teams.
Quebec lost in the first round to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies last week, but it should bring back a strong 19-year-old cohort helmed by Tampa Lightning signing Adam Erne, who played in the world junior, as well as 50-goal scorer Anthony Duclair, a New York Rangers selection. Goalie François Brassard is on the AHL-or-QMJHL overager bubble. Remparts GM-coach Philippe Boucher also has a high import slot available after harvesting a pick from the second-year Sherbrooke Phoenix, offering the chance to do a plug-and-play with a high NHL draft pick who's interested in developing in a North American league.
There should be little doubting that the Remparts will be a contender, however it goes through the QMJHL season. That shouldn't quiet the desire to see the other, what, 75-80 per cent of CHL franchises that are in cities with not enough hotel rooms and/or are in the U.S. have a shot. Fair is fair.
Roger Fradette, the leader of the Sags' bid, told Le Journal de Québec it is "too early" to decide if Chicoutimi will re-focus on bidding for 2017. The tournament will probably be due for a turn in the Maritimes; it is widely anticipated that the Saint John Sea Dogs are trying to build for that season. Saint John was a finalist for the 2012 tournament. The Moncton Wildcats, who withdrew their interest for this round of bidding, could also be an intriguing possibility.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.