The 2018 centennial Memorial Cup will be a big one and Winnipeg should play host

Winnipeg's MTS Centre. Photo by Asad Aman.

The Memorial Cup is said to be one of the hardest trophies to win, with all the participants having to win their respective league playoffs. The three winners across Canada’s junior leagues and the host team then play a round robin tournament to claim bragging rights of being the best team in junior hockey. In 2018, the 100th edition of the tournament will take place, and Winnipeg could have an outside shot of hosting it.

The last time Winnipeg hosted the Memorial Cup, junior hockey’s ultimate prize, was in 1922. The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) typically rotates the hosting of the Memorial Cup across the three major junior leagues in Canada: the WHL (Western Hockey League), OHL (Ontario Hockey League), and the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). In 2018, the QMJHL is set to host it but the CHL has decided to open up the bidding to anyone for the tournament’s centennial.

In a press release by the CHL, president David Branch said that he is excited that they have allowed anyone to host such a historic event.

“On behalf of the Canadian Hockey League, we are very excited to open the bidding process for this historic national event to CHL teams across the country,” Branch said.

“Our mission is to capture, preserve, and enhance the legacy of one of the most prestigious trophies in all of sport and engage the entire nation through this celebration that will also honour the brave men and women who served and continue to serve our country.”

Many NHL stars have won the Memorial Cup in their junior days, including Taylor Hall, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Nathan MacKinnon, and Milan Lucic, so the tournament is an excellent opportunity for fans to see future NHL talent.

In order for Winnipeg to be able to host the centennial Memorial Cup, the only junior team in Manitoba, the Brandon Wheat Kings, would have to place a bid. When asked by the Manitoban about the possibility of the team putting in a bid, a representative of the Wheat Kings said they could not comment on the subject. The WHL offices did not respond to an email from the Manitoban.

Winnipeg, with its hockey-mad fans, is an ideal candidate for such a special occasion – the MTS Centre is more than capable of hosting such a tournament.

In an article in the Hockey News, Ryan Kennedy mentions that Toronto could also play host to the tournament. That of course is a real possibility, and Toronto is just as much a hockey and sports mecca as Winnipeg, but for such a significant Canadian tournament, it should go to a city with the sort of passion that can only be found in Winnipeg.

We all saw how the city reacted to the Jets’ return in 2011; there is no doubt in my mind that Winnipeggers would welcome the tournament with open arms. The Memorial Cup relies a lot on volunteers to help make everything go smoothly. I think organizers would have to turn down people because there would be so much interest in Winnipeg.

This city craves hockey, whether it is the Moose, the Jets, or local minor or junior hockey. With its small population, Winnipeg has even been able to support both an AHL and NHL franchise – something most people outside of the city would never have believed possible 15 years ago, but I think it’s something the people of Winnipeg knew they could do.

Winnipeg has shown the ability host major events, with it most recently playing host to some games of the Women’s World Cup last July. Winnipeg attendance was great, and that wasn’t even a hockey tournament. This city is wildly obsessed with sports and if the Memorial Cup were to come to Winnipeg, I am sure it would be a huge success.

I am sure the big boys over at the CHL will take a long hard look at Winnipeg if the Wheat Kings do decide to put in a bid for Memorial Cup in two years’ time. The 100th edition of the Memorial Cup deserves Winnipeg, and Winnipeg has proved that it’s a deserving host.