OHL does its homework

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

The OHL talked the talk, then walked the walk.

When its Memorial Cup site selection committee announced yesterday the Kitchener Rangers have been awarded the 2008 event, the OHL disproved anyone who ever said the fix was in.

Wasn't this Memorial Cup bid merely a formality? Wasn't this thing in the bag the second the last brick was attached to Oshawa's General Motors Centre and Generals John Tavares proved how dominant he is in the league?

Wasn't the Generals bid a sure-fire winner because commissioner Dave Branch lives in the area? Wasn't this process a mere formality because the Generals were the only Eastern Conference team left in contention and the Memorial Cup hadn't been awarded to an Eastern team since Shep was a pup?

Congratulations to the bid committee.

There's no other conclusion one can draw other than to say the committee's members opted to select the best bid presentation and did not merely hand it to the team everyone expected would get it.

If that's the case, it offers hope to teams who want to bid in the future but are worried they haven't got a chance.

Oshawa must feel like they've been kicked in the stomach. They had it all going for them. Great players, new building, a $1.5 million guarantee, and still they missed. Something must have really turned off the committee.

The London Knights matched the Rangers' financial guarantee of $1.8 million. Knights governor Trevor Whiffen handed the committee a certified cheque for the entire amount.

Whiffen was disappointed. He wasn't familiar with all the bids but said the Knights' bid this year was stronger than the bid that earned them the 2005 Memorial Cup event.

Having staged the event two years ago was an advantage and a detriment.

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"It gave us an advantage in terms of knowing what to expect, executing the event and planning the event," Whiffen said. "But there were probably those on the selection committee that would have not wanted to come back to London as the first choice because they wanted to spread it around.

"But we were encouraged by the league to bid on it. We were challenged to put our best bid forward. We worked hard to put together a bid that was even better than the one in 2004 for the '05 Cup. The only thing that was stronger then was the quality of the team. We have a great team now, we had an unbelievable team then."

That was the Knights' biggest obstacle. Their bid was creative -- financially at least as good as any of the others -- and their returning team looked to be as strong as the others.

But London staged the Cup in 2005 and no matter how good a bid it presented, that fact blinked like a neon sign.

Financially, London's bid would have added plenty of cash to league coffers.

Whiffen said they projected a profit of between $2.2 million and $2.4 million, money that would all go to the OHL.

It isn't much consolation to London, but with the Rangers' selection, it's obvious the committee took all the bids seriously, that outside of Saginaw, any could have won.

If there's a keen disappointment in all this, it has to be for the Sarnia Sting.

This was the third time they've bid. Reports indicate their minimum guarantee was $1.3 million. Team co-owner Rob Ciccarelli has been a key member of the OHL community. What a statement it would have been if the committee had gone to the smallest community in the OHL and rewarded it, especially since the Sting have a returning team as good as they've had.

"We thought we were very close this time around," said Ciccarelli, who said on the day of the in-person presentations that if Sarnia wasn't selected, it would be the last time he'll bid. "Right now, I'm still thinking that way. I just don't know the areas we can improve on. In the past, we didn't have strong returning teams. This year it's one of the strongest."

Ciccarelli said maybe "we've been left completely out of the loop."

Unlike Oshawa, that was knocked for a loop.

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LONDON'S MEMORIAL CUP BID

Key components of the London Knights bid for the 2008 Memorial Cup tournament.

Financial guarantee: $1.8 million

Projected profit: $2.2 million to $2.4 million

Corporate support to date of presentation: $600,000

Volunteers: 700

Presold ticket packages: 10,500

Theme: Celebration of the history of the Ontario Hockey League.

Components: Creation of an OHL Hall of Fame. Inductees to include all-time Western and Eastern Conference teams voted on by fans and media; Red Tilson Award winners; Bill Long Award winners, top coaches; plus one player nomination per team for each 10 years of existence.

OHL Avenue: Outside John Labatt Centre 20 tents, one for each OHL team dedicated to team history, colours, sweaters and tradition.

OHL Alumni Association: Creation of alumni association including compilation of statistics for players and a data base of contact information.

OHL Foundation: Create and fund a charitable foundation to help members of the extended OHL family with $100,000 from the Memorial Cup.

OHL coaches' conference: Honour and bring back OHL coaches to meet and discuss coaching with minor hockey coaches.

OHL alumni appreciation concert: Day following the Memorial Cup final.

OHL alumni hockey and softball games: Fundraisers for the OHL foundation.

Junkies lounge: Place for the hard-core junkies who travel to all Memorial Cup tournaments to hang out.

Compiled by Morris Dalla Costa


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