Bigger is better. And, in the eyes of the majority of WHL governors, more financially bountiful.
The Saskatoon Blades will never apologize for the luxury of playing out of a 15,000-seat facility, and why would/should they?
After all, it was that extra space that allowed the team — and the city — to land the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament Wednesday.
The neutral governors took one look at the Blades’ bid — which by all reports was similar to the Red Deer Rebels’ proposal in terms of corporate and provincial government financial support — and then, with all things otherwise considered equal, voted in favour of Saskatoon.
The Kelowna Rockets, who play out of the 6,000-seat Prospera Place, were the other finalists.
Really, neither of the runner-up organizations should have even bothered to submit a bid. With Saskatoon on the card, neither the Rebels nor the Rockets had a fighting chance of winning the right to host the prestigious event in two years time.
There’s some debate as to whether Kelowna ever belonged on the ballot, seeing that the franchise played host to the 2004 Memorial Cup tourney.
Red Deer, meanwhile, looked like the proper choice.
Rebels owner Brent Sutter applied for and was a finalist to host the 2001 event, and a few years later pulled his bid off the table when it became apparent that Vancouver’s presentation in regards to staging the 2007 tournament was untouchable thanks to overwhelming corporate support.
He struck out for a third time Wednesday when the powers that be decided that the Canadian Hockey League showcase would not return to Alberta for the first time since 1974; that the Wild Rose province was undeserving of hosting the event for a second time in what would amount to 39 years.
League commissioner Ron Robison eluded to Saskatoon’s track record of hosting major events, but also admitted that the extra capacity of the city’s Credit Union Centre played a role in the vote.
No kidding, considering Red Deer has hosted the world junior championship and the Brier, and will entertain the Canadian women’s curling championship — the Scotties Tournament of Hearts — for a second time in February.
All of the major events held at the Centrium — which late next year will have been upgraded to 7,000 seat — have been wildly successful, and Kelowna can likely make the same claim.
The governors also considered the potential strength of the bidding teams in 2012-13. The Blades, apparently, got the nod although both the Rebels and Rockets should be strong next season and have the resources (prospects, draft picks) that would enable them to improve their teams.
No, this one came down to the almighty dollar.
Will the Rebels present a bid — a proposal six to eight months in the making — for the 2016 tournament if, say, Vancouver also expresses an interest in hosting?
Why would they bother?
l More on the Memorial Cup decision, from Kelowna Daily Courier sports writer Doyle Potenteau:
“While Okanagan residents may not like the decision, there’s one positive outcome with Saskatoon’s bid, and that’s available seats. The Credit UnionCentre isn’t a beehive of activity, as witnessed by a Blades home game on Tuesday night against a East Division rival, the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Thatgame drew just 3,720 fans.
Further, according to one website which tracks WHL attendance, Saskatoon’s average attendance last season was 4,380, or ninth in the 22-team league.
Kelowna was third at 6,078, while Red Deer was eighth at 4,500.”
On the move — The Regina Pats are confident they’ve added some scoring depth with Wednesday’s acquisition of 20-year-old forward Matt Marantz from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. “We feel he can contribute some offence to our hockey club,” Pats GM Chad Lang told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post. “He scored 20 goals last year (with the Spokane Chiefs) and none of those goals were on the power play. It proves he’s a guy who’s capable of scoring. We feel if given the opportunity to play some special teams that hopefully he can enhance those numbers. He’s a real responsible player on both ends of the ice yet we think he has offensive upside. With the maturity and experience he brings, we’re excited to get him.” The Pats gave up a fourth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft for the Calgary product, who was dealt from Spokane to Lethbridge less than two weeks ago . . . The Victoria Royals released overage goaltender Braden Gamble Wednesday, in essence deciding that Keith Hamilton, 19, will be the club’s starter and Jared Rathjen, 17, will serve as the back-up. In four games with Victoria this season, Gamble posted a goals-against average of 6.22 and save percentage of .816. He appeared in 20 games for the Bruins in 2009-10 with a 3.54 GAA and 19 games last season with a 3.86 GAA. “Braden has a great attitude, but he was not where he wanted to be this season (in terms of performance),” Royals GM and head coach Marc Habscheid told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist.
Just notes: Big Valley native Ty Mappin and Red Deer Rebels prime prospect Conner Bleackley, both forwards, have been named to the Alberta team for the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup tournament Oct. 27-30 at Moose Jaw. Both are currently in the Alberta Midget League — Mappin with the Red Deer Optimist Rebels and Bleackley with the UFA Bisons . . . Three other Rebels bantam draft picks — goaltender Grant Naherniak and defencemen Haydn Fleury and Vukie Mpofu — have been selected to Team Saskatchewan.
— copyright Red Deer Advocate