London to host 2014 Memorial Cup; double whammy for Barrie
Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch chats with London Knights head coach Dale Hunter after a press conference at Budweiser Gardens May 14th 2013. Branch announced that London will play host to the 2014 Memorial Cup next spring. JACOB ROBINSON/LONDONER/QMI AGENCY
It's a double blow for Barrie.
Less than 12 hours after winning their way into the 2013 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, the London Knights and the city of London were named bid winners to host the 2014 Memorial Cup, beating out the Barrie Colts and the Windsor Spitfires.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was clearly unhappy with the decision.
“I'm disappointed, and I'm frustrated, both as the mayor and as a fan,” he said. “The league indicated that London has a better 2014 team on paper, and that was the reason for the decision.
“That may be the case, but I have to say, the last four Memorial Cups in Ontario have been awarded to large-market teams," Lehman noted.
"London is a great city and I'm sure they will host a great event, but to award it to the same city twice in 10 years," he added, "what message is the league sending to small and mid-size market teams?”
The Memorial Cup host city rotates between the Ontario, Quebec and Western hockey leagues each year.
The last OHL host cities included Mississauga (2011), Kitchener (2008), London (2005) and Guelph (2002). The Knights won the tournament in 2005.
Lehman said the decision will again raise questions about Barrie Molson Centre's seating capacity, but noted both Rimouski (2009) and Shawinigan (2012) have successfully hosted the Memorial Cup in the last decade in arenas of the same size, approximately 4,300 seats.
Nevertheless, Lehman praised this year's Colts team.
“I would like to say that, despite the heartbreak of Game 7 in the final second, the Colts have a huge amount to be proud of this year,” he said. “They were warriors. They fought back from deficits in the third period time and again, and the provided a whole lot of excitement and inspiration to a whole lot of people in Barrie.
“All of Barrie is proud of them.”
London Knights general manager Mark Hunter said he was informed of the 2014 Memorial Cup decision just prior to Monday's Game 7 against the Colts.
“I’m numb,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing everything that’s happened. It’s been quite a run.
The official announcement was made early Tuesday followed by a press conference at London's 9,100-seat Budweiser Gardens.
London's Game 7 victory over the Colts on Monday earns them the right to represent the OHL at this year's Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, which begins in Friday.
The site selection committee for the 2014 Memorial Cup was made up of Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston, former OHL and NHL executive and director of Central Scouting Frank Bonello, NHL senior executive vice-president of hockey operations Colin Campbell, NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Jim Gregory, and president of broadcast, Rogers Media (Sportsnet) Scott Moore. Ex-officio members of the site selection committee include OHL legal counsel Gord Kirke and OHL commissioner David Branch, who also heads up the Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella organization for the Ontario, Western and Quebec leagues.
“The quality of a MasterCard Memorial Cup host team is one of the principal criteria for a successful bid,” Kirke said. “The site selection committee determined that while all three clubs possess sufficient elements for a suitable host city, it is the projected quality of the London Knights hockey next season that is the decisive factor.”
The Knights project to return more than 22 players next season from their 2012-13 roster
The 96th edition of the Memorial Cup will take place May 16-25, 2014, at Budweiser Gardens.
“I just don’t know what to say,” Hunter said. “So much has happened. I found out just before the game when (Knights governor) Trevor Whiffen came in and said ‘we got it.’ It’s just been amazing.”