Knights deliver Cup pitch

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

TORONTO -- The group walked out of their presentation satisfied they did all they could to bring the Memorial Cup back to London in 2008.

But they also know the biggest obstacle they had to overcome was just that --bringing the tournament back.

The London Knights held the 2005 event, which they won. If they're selected this time, it would be the first time an OHL team has hosted the Memorial Cup in successive turns for the league.

"It was an issue we had to deal with and we dealt with it right up front," said Knights governor Trevor Whiffen, the lead person in the bid group.

"I've been told by people in the league we shouldn't even bid because we held it in 2005. From my perspective, it's a great event.

"We believe in the event and the league and we believe in making sure the league puts its best foot forward.

"We believe we'll have the best team and the best chance of making the 2008 Memorial Cup the most successful ever."

Five teams made presentations yesterday. London was followed by Kitchener, Saginaw, Sarnia and Oshawa. The winner will be announced the first week of May.

If there's a favourite, it's Oshawa, with a new building and a marquee player returning in forward John Tavares.

The Generals last hosted the Cup in 1990, when it won with Eric Lindros in the lineup.

It didn't take long for Generals owner John Davies to point out the Knights had the Cup in 2005.

He was asked whether the Generals would be hurt because they only made it to the second round of the playoffs this year. He pointed out the Knights are the only team that have gone further and their effort wasn't considered "a serious bid."

He was asked to clarify.

"Perhaps I misspoke," Davies said. "London's bid will be taken seriously. But it will be difficult for the selection committee to go back to a city that last hosted it. The purpose of the Memorial Cup is to bring outstanding hockey to the grassroots levels across the province to all our communities, not just the ones with the largest venues or the ones that draw the most fans or the ones with the largest financial guarantee.

"The purpose of the Memorial Cup is to bring Canadian hockey to the people."

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The London group revealed few details.

"We were told by the (site selection) committee not to disclose details of the bid," Whiffen said. "The league has our bid book. They haven't had a chance to look at it yet. They'll have a close look at it, read it and ask follow-up questions."

The Knights didn't disclose their financial guarantee, except to say it would be in the $1.5 to $1.9 million range.

The Rangers, despite the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium holding 2,700 fewer fans than the John Labatt Centre, guaranteed $1.8 million.

"The number became the number," said Rangers president Steve Bienkowski. "We looked at our revenue sources and expenses -- and there was the number. There's no way we should be able to get to London's number. They have a much bigger building but we don't think it's about the money."

The Knights guaranteed $1.1 million in 2005, the Rangers $1.4 and the Sting $1.6. As a comparison this time, should the event come to London, ticket prices for nine games are $400 for Knights season-ticket holders and $440 for the general public. The Rangers' ticket package would be $450.

The Knights asked for deposits of $25 on ticket packages and sold more than 10,000. The Rangers did not go that route.

"Our problem won't be selling seats," Bienkowski said. "We've gone 230 consecutive games when we've averaged standing room only. Our problem will be finding seats."

The London presenters were Whiffen, London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best, Tourism London's Paul Hardy and Knights' GM Mark Hunter.

DeCicco-Best was a member of the 2005 bid group.

"The foundation of the bid is very solid," the mayor said. "We've built on that with new and fresh ideas for events. But the foundation is much the same as last time. If it works once, don't go and reinvent the wheel."

Whiffen scratched the surface on the bid's theme.

"It's about the history and celebration of the OHL. It's a theme that will embrace and involve all the teams in the OHL, past and present. This is not just a London Knight function," he said.

Groups were given 45 minutes to present, then answered questions for 15. Part of the Knights' presentation was a six-minute, 40-second video.

The Spirit may be the long shot, but their theme was interesting. It focused on how awarding the Memorial Cup to Saginaw will help the OHL sell the game to Americans.

"We believe there are some centres in our area that are ready for expansion," said Spirit president Craig Goslin. "We believe there could be an American Division in the OHL. Having the Memorial Cup would attract top tier American players to come to the league."


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