Mem Cup race comes to life

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Peter Loubardias is living out his dream at the same time the CHL is experiencing a dream Memorial Cup.

And with Sportsnet bringing all the action from London, Ont., live -- in high definition for the first time -- the play-by-play man is counting up the storylines he has in front of him and colourman John Druce.

There's the amazing season the host Knights have had, going unbeaten in 31 straight games en route to an amazing 59 wins.

There are the defending champion Kelowna Rockets fighting their way back into the tournament despite losing their starting goaltender.

There's an Ottawa team with a legendary coach in Brian Kilrea but the 67's are given almost no chance of competing.

Then there's Sidney Crosby. The Next One. Which make the Rimouski Oceanic quite the attraction in London.

So Sportsnet's Hockey Central panel will be on site along with reporter Daren Millard.

With no NHL playoff action to dissect, Darren Dreger, Nick Kypreos and John Garrett are focusing all their attention on the Mem Cup.

"It's a major production with our regular broadcast crew, Garrett, Kypreos and Dreger," Loubardias said. "The Hockey Central panel are going to be there from start to finish. We're throwing the monkey wrench and the kitchen sink at this one."

Loubardias, who grew up in Saskatoon cheering for the WHL's Blades, has always paid close attention to the tournament. He called his first Mem Cup last spring when the Rockets emerged victorious on home ice. But plenty more people should be watching tomorrow when the Rimouski faces London (5 p.m., Ch. 27), so Loubardias's drawn-out goal call will be on display.

Yet the 39-year-old isn't worried how his 'Heeeee scuuurs' will sound to new viewers.

"I never know what's going to come out of my trap," he said with a chuckle.

"I don't know from one goal to the next how it's going to sound."

As a self-proclaimed 'junior hockey junkie,' Loubardias used to play a game with his colleagues at Sportsnet. Someone would name an NHL player and Loubardias could immediately say for which junior teams he played.

So Loubardias is pinching himself at the prospects of calling what could amount to the best Memorial Cup ever.

"In those two-plus hours of game time, I have an absolute blast. It's my favourite thing in the world to do," he said. "I love every single second of it. I thought about it last year, when you grow up in a junior-hockey town, your goal is to attend the Mem Cup. I never missed watching one since 1974.

"I went from gearing up every single year just to watch it to getting a chance to call it. It gives me goose bumps. It's an honour and real privilege to be involved."

As for his prediction, Loubardias doesn't count any of the four teams out and said any of them could be in the final next Sunday.

One thing is assured: More eyes will view this tournament than ever before.

And Loubardias hopes they will be back next year even if there is a Stanley Cup being played for.

"For people who have grown up with it and junior hockey fans, you wish it would get more respect," he said. "I'm always hopeful more people get turned onto the product.

"It's a game played by tremendously skilled young people. To get to this level is extremely difficult.

"Take the Blades, for example, they've never won their league. The Knights have finally won their league after

40 years of existence. If London does finish this off, you could make an argument this is the best junior hockey team of all time."


Videos

Photos