Leaving a legacy is as important as the hockey itself

Morris Dalla Costa -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Only 9,100 people a game will find themselves in the John Labatt Centre come Memorial Cup week. So the key to a successful event for a community isn't only about what happens inside the JLC, but how involved everyone else gets when they don't have a chance to attend the games.

When this city and the London Knights play host to the 2005 tournament in May, the eyes of hockey will be watching. The city needs to be prepared to put on not just a good show on the ice, but a good one off it as well.

"What you want to do is reach out and let the community be involved," says Jim Rooney, co-owner and president of the Guelph Storm, which held the event in 2002.

"It's not just about going to the game. Yes, it's a hockey tournament and yes the games are the pinnacle. But for the community, it's an opportunity to build a legacy and get the community involved."

It's going to take a lot of preparation, a lot of work and a lot of volunteers. Guelph had 700 volunteers. Right now, London has 1,200, with more looking to help.

"I'd say that to make things work, you look at what you presented in the bid document and you go out and do what you said you would do," Rooney says.

The Knights are fortunate. They have a facility in a location that's ideal for holding many activities.

They're across from Covent Garden Market with its plaza, and it wouldn't create much hardship to close Talbot Street between King and Dundas streets for the week.

What a great spot for music performances, interactive displays, hockey tournaments and just about any other event one can think of.

Here are just a few things the Storm did:

"We ran a 3-on-3 road hockey tournament," Rooney says. "There's a ton of those natural things you can do.

"We ran a table-hockey tournament. You can't run just outdoor activities. We believed in another priorities. We tried to incorporate arts and athletics.

"At the pinnacle of the showcase, we ran a Jann Arden concert as a community fundraiser for our local service clubs."

There was a pancake breakfast the morning of the semifinal. Why not a huge outdoor barbecue earlier in the week?

The Memorial Cup was named to honour of those Canadian hockey players who died in the First World War.

Leaving a legacy for an event that may take another 40 years to come back to London, is one of the most important elements when something like this is held.

Guelph partnered with schools to raise money to buy bricks for the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer on the Normandy coast of France. The team raised $10,000.

The Storm also made a five-year commitment to the hospital foundation to run a golf tournament promising to raise $250,000.

After three years, the team has raised more than $200,000 and will exceed its goal by the time the five-year commitment is over.

The Knights' alumni will be running a golf tournament during Cup week with the proceeds going to the Parkwood Hospital Foundation.

Even though initially the Memorial Cup bid committee indicated that it wouldn't run a beer tent because it didn't want to compete with local businesses.

It appears the Knights will now run an outdoor beer tent with a large screen showing the games.

Although hockey is the engine that runs the event, it isn't only about the hockey.

On the other hand . . . .

"It's important that we don't forget that the tournament is also about the players," Rooney said. "We really felt we wanted the teams to have something no one else had from this event, to make them feel appreciated."

Something unique that identifies the individual as a participant. As a result, team members were given two kinds of jackets and a bag that were not sold in a store, on-line or anywhere else."

All this takes time and planning.

Each year, the bar is raised.

Much is expected from London. In this case, more is never too much.


Videos

Photos