The Memorial Cup.
It’s that time of the year again where the pitter-patter of hearts that belong to junior hockey players and fans go into overdrive as the Memorial Cup tournament begins. The Memorial Cup is the Canadian Hockey League’s version of the Stanley Cup and is not too far behind Lord Stanley’s bowl in the respect it garners in the hockey world.
It began in 1919 when it was donated by the Ontario Hockey Association to be awarded to the junior champion of Canada. The name Memorial Cup was to honor the fallen Canadian hockey players who had been killed in World War I, and there were several who were Canadian stars that had given their lives in service to His Majesty’s Forces. From its inception until 1971, the Memorial Cup was open to all Junior A teams in the country and was awarded following a series of league, provincial and regional playoffs. In 1972 it changed to a three-league tournament with the champions of the WHL, OHL and the QMJHL; and finally in 1983, the CHL included the host team to make it a four-team round-robin event.
The first American team to win it was the Portland Winterhawks in 1983, which was also the first year that the Hawks hosted it as well. That was a really great team that included Mike Vernon, Cam Neely, the Sutter twins and one of my personal favorites, “Chicken Parm: (aka Ray Ferraro). Quite a few NHL players have competed for the Memorial Cup over the years; and there have been a number of guys that have gone on to win the big bowl too like Scott Niedermayer, Brad Luckowich and Ray Whitney.
This year, the tournament is being hosted in Brandon, Manitoba by the hometown team, the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. The Wheaties beat out both the Kelowna Rockets and my own Everett Silvertips for the honor of being the hosts after promising a whole bunch of money to upgrade their barn. Whatever … we have a nice new beautiful place that’s already hosted Skate America and an NHL exhibition game. It’s too bad, too, because since my boys were out after the first round, it would have been nice to see them playing again especially on such a grand stage. Besides Brandon there are the Calgary Hitmen from the Dub, the defending champions from Windsor called the Spitfires, who are from the OHL; and the Moncton Wildcats who are the Quebec League champs but play in New Brunswick.
It should be a good tournament and even though I think that Windsor has a really good chance to repeat; I won’t be surprised if they don’t. Only three teams have repeated in the last 30 years: Dougie Gilmour and Dale Hawerchuk were part of the Cornwall Royals in 1980 and 1981, the 1987 and 1988 Medicine Hat Tigers, who had my beloved Trevor Linden on board; and the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and 1995, with Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and (Goddess Kaatiya fave) Darcy Tucker.
If you would like to see this tournament and don’t live in Canada; never fear … it is being shown on the NHL network. Yay! It begins tomorrow afternoon and the final game is next weekend. Here’s the schedule:
Friday, 5/14: Windsor vs. Brandon, 5p PDT/8p EDT
Saturday, 5/15: Calgary vs. Moncton, 12p PDT/3p EDT
Sunday, 5/16: Brandon vs. Moncton, 12p PDT/3p EDT
Monday, 5/17: Calgary vs. Windsor, 5 pm/8p EDT
Tuesday, 5/18: Moncton vs. Windsor, 5 pm/8p EDT
Wednesday, 5/19: Brandon vs. Calgary, 5 pm/8p EDT
Thursday, 5/20: Tiebreaker (if necessary), 5 pm/8p EDT
Friday, 5/21: Semifinal, 5 pm/8p EDT
Sunday, 5:23: Championship final, 12 pm/3p EDT
Photo: The Memorial Cup from The Hockey Hall of Fame website.