Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors owner Eugene Melnyk believes, appearances to the contrary, Toronto would support the Memorial Cup if his Majors get to host it in 2011.
This is a paraphrase, but Melnyk said the following on Toronto's FAN 590 earlier today:
"There's no question about it, it's a tough ticket for regular-season games. We don't hide from that. However, Toronto has a history that it will support world-class events ... I think it will sell out."
Go ahead and scoff, but that does sum up Melnyk well. Any sports owner is going to have critics, not without justification, but he has shown a willingness to take a chance on a product the populace ranged from being indifferent from ignorant toward, whether it was major junior hockey in Toronto, or pursuing a MLS team in Ottawa.
Whether Toronto automatically turns out for world-class events and whether the Memorial Cup falls under that umbrella in the minds of casual fans (the ones whom Drew Magary of Kissing Suzy Kolber fames notes "extend sports beyond their normal reach") is debatable.
Take the 2009 World Baseball Classic. There was a crowd of 45,000 at Rogers Centre for a U.S.-Canada game, but only 11,000 turned out a few nights later to watch Canada lose to Italy. Pairing Canadian football's Grey Cup and Vanier Cup in 2007 was something less than a touchdown. There was enthusiasm for soccer's U20 World Cup earlier that year, but footy is the world's game.
Meantime, while talking with FAN 590's Mike Hogan, Melnyk reiterated the selection committee's choice really does come down to having a good team.
"What I've learned is it's not whether you can put on the event ... what they really pay attention to is what your team is going to look like next year ... they have people from (NHL) Central Scouting on the committee. The coach is 50 per cent of the presentation."