Another Cup bid makes sense

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The London Knights had so much fun with the 2005 Memorial Cup they may try to bring it back to London in 2008.

"We're having a close look at it," Knights general manager Mark Hunter said. "It was so good for the community and our team that we'd have to look at it."

Stop jumping up an down for a minute. There's no guarantee the Knights will bid and even if they do, the odds of getting it are not in their favour. That's despite the fact they would fill the criteria needed for a city to be considered.

The Memorial Cup alternates between the three major junior leagues. It was in Moncton (QMJHL) in May and this season it's Vancouver (WHL).

Teams wishing to bid must do so by Feb. 1. The three-member site selection committee will announce a short list of potential sites by the beginning of March. In April, the short-listed cities make a formal presentation.

The final decision on a host site will be announced in May, during the week after the annual OHL draft.

Portland is the only city to be given the Memorial Cup on successive turns and that was 1983 and 1986.

Hunter will make a decision soon.

But here's the skinny.

The Knights certainly fill the requirements any team or city needs to win the bid. The one held in London in 2005 was a big success both on and off the ice. There were 9,090 fans at every game at the John Labatt Centre and the event turned a healthy profit.

The building hasn't changed and neither has this city's appetite for junior hockey. From a financial standpoint it would be an even greater success, especially since Londoners wouldn't have a problem paying a little more when it comes to tickets, if they believed more money would help the tournament come here again.

More importantly, the Knights would fill the on-ice component of the bid process. Teams must be able to project they'll be competitive for that year because an automatic berth in the tournament goes with the winning bid. No one wants the host to be embarrassed.

The Knights will probably have two of the top National Hockey League draft choices in their lineup next year, Sam Gagner and Pat Kane. They'll have Steve Mason in net, one of four goalies just selected to Canada's junior team camp. That's a pretty good start to success for next season.

But they will have stiff competition.

Sault Ste. Marie and Oshawa have new buildings. Kingston and Windsor have buildings in the works. When it comes to quality on the ice, Oshawa has John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto, two outstanding young players.

And just to make the point again, the Knights had the Memorial Cup just two years ago.

The bid that won the 2005 event cost between $50,000 and $100,000 to put together.

Here's why the Knights should consider bidding for the 2008 event.

- They have become one of the top junior franchises in the country. Such teams continually show up at all major events because nothing is outside the realm of possibility when you've moved to the top of what you do.

- The learning curve for this bid is not as steep as the first one, enabling a bid committee to get the work done efficiently as well as giving them the opportunity to incorporate all the good stuff they learned from the last event.

- Bidding would also provide good profile for the community and the team, as well as sending out a message to the fans that's very important to Hunter: "We want to keep you happy."

Most people would understand if the Knights passed on this opportunity. It's a lot of time and money, especially if the odds aren't in your favour

But it's also an investment, a statement that tells everyone your organization intends to stay at the top. Call it chumming the water. You might not catch anything right away but you never know when something will bite.

KNIGHTWATCH

Some tickets are available for two London Knights games this week

Tomorrow: About 200 tickets are available when the Knights play the Plymouth Whalers at the John Labatt Centre at 7 p.m.

Friday: Some standing room is available for Teddy Bear Toss night, when the Knights play the Mississauga IceDogs at the JLC at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased at the John Labatt Centre, or by calling 519-681-0800 or online at www.londonknights.com


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