London largest of six bidders for cup

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

Unlike last time, London will be the largest of the six municipalities bidding for the 2008 Memorial Cup.

Sarnia, Oshawa, Kingston, Kitchener and Saginaw have joined London in submitting letters of intent along with a standard bid document to the Ontario Hockey League for the event.

The OHL's site selection committee will look over the documents and has the option to create a shortlist.

"March 7, we'll tell them if they will make in-person presentations," OHL commissioner Dave Branch said.

The in-person presentations to the site selection committee will be made April 18. An announcement of who will hold the 2008 event will be made during the week of May 7.

There was some speculation that as many as 10 or 11 teams would bid.

"I'm really pleased there are six. It's a huge undertaking, it's a huge cost and all the teams have a good understanding of what it takes," Branch said. "They honestly judged their situation and made the determination that it wasn't best for them at this time.

"There are a lot of key factors that come into play in order to be selected and some teams obviously felt that they couldn't fulfil those obligation at this time."

The biggest surprise of the non-bidders was Sault Ste. Marie. The Greyhounds just moved into a new arena.

"As an organization, we feel we must continue to improve and grow all aspects of our organization. We examined the OHL's guidelines for hosting the Memorial Cup and feel that at this time we are not yet prepared to meet all the criteria," Greyhounds president Lou Lukenda said.

Lukenda said further improvements to the Hounds' new home arena -- the Steelback Centre -- will make future bidding more realistic.

Trevor Whiffen, Knights governor and head of the bid committee, said he's not surprised by any of the cities that are bidding. He believes London will benefit by its previous experience in winning and playing host to the event.

London capped its $25 deposits for Memorial Cup tickets at 10,400. That includes packages set aside for the Canadian Hockey League.

Whiffen said no decision has been made on how high the local bid committee will submit for its profit guarantee for the tournament.

"Last time, we guaranteed $1.1 million and delivered $1.468 million," Whiffen said. "It will be bigger than $1.468 million."

Money isn't the only factor. Facilities, ease of access, hotels and the expected quality of the team are some of the other qualities the site selection committee will look at.

This will be Sarnia's third bid for the Memorial Cup.

Dean Collver, Sting director of business operations and bid co-ordinator, said reaction around the community to this bid is much better than it was for the 2005 bid.

The "vibe around the potential of this team is a lot more positive," he said.

Collver said Sarnia's bid was as good as any when it came to the off-ice components needed to hold a Memorial Cup.

Oshawa Generals could be considered a front-runner. They have a strong team anchored by John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto and have just moved into a new building.

London has the biggest facility and will likely boast two of the top five picks in this summer's National Hockey League draft in Pat Kane and Sam Gagner.

Kitchener has a big building and a good team.

Kingston Frontenacs are also supposed to have a new building in place in time for the Memorial Cup. The arena isn't scheduled to be finished until December.

THE SIX BIDS

Kingston: Population, 114,195; facility, Kingston Sports and Entertainment Centre (not yet opened), capacity 5,000

Kitchener: Population, 190,399; Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex, capacity 6,400

London: Population, 336,539; John Labatt Centre, capacity 9,090

Oshawa: Population, 139,051; General Motors Centre, capacity 5,637

Saginaw: Population, 58,361; Wendler Arena, capacity, 5,527

Sarnia: Population, 70,876; Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre; capacity 5,200


Videos

Photos