Format creates repetitive games

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

KITCHENER -- The Spokane Chiefs have been in the Memorial Cup final since Monday.

The tournament's half over and the Gatineau Olympiques, already back home, will watch Sunday's title game on TV.

The host Kitchener Rangers and Belleville Bulls, the best rivalry at the Cup, just played a meaningless round-robin game -- an appetizer for tomorrow night's semifinal main course.

There's no tie-breaker so there's just as many off-days as game days left.

Does the Memorial Cup format need an overhaul?

"I'm a bit of a purist in that I think these things should be decided by seven-game series," Kitchener GM and head coach Peter DeBoer said. "But I understand this is a made-for-TV event and it's about maximizing ratings and exposure for our sport. I'm fine with that."

Teams travelling across the country to play seven-game series against unfamiliar foes on the road to the Cup ended in 1971.

Rangers forward Mike Duco is fine with the round-robin set-up, but felt a scheduling tweak could have avoided last night's semifinal preamble.

"It's too bad the last round-robin game is the same two teams who are playing in the semi," the 21-year-old Toronto native said.

"But I don't know how you'd change it. It just worked out that way and I wouldn't be in favour of a seven-game series. For me, one's more than enough.

"To tell you the truth, I'm sick of playing the Belleville Bulls. I'm sure they're sick of us, too."

At least Kitchener fans were given one extra chance to boo Bulls forward and former London Knights captain Adam Perry. That had to be worth the price of an unusable ticket for today's non-existent tie-breaker game.

"I don't know what that's all about, but I think it goes all the way back to when his brother was playing against us here with London," Duco said.

Corey Perry, now an Anaheim Duck, squared off and fought current Philadelphia Flyers star Mike Richards at centre ice in London during the 2005 playoffs.

"All I remember is that Richie gave him a pretty good beating," Duco said.

DeBoer, who would normally prepare his Rangers for that night's opponent, chose not to speak to his team about the Bulls.

"They've been hearing me talk about the Belleville Bulls for the last three weeks," he said. "I figured they didn't want to hear me talk about them anymore."

After losing with Guelph in the 1998 final, Belleville GM and head coach George Burnett has waited a decade for another shot at the Cup. He is excited about the opportunity, not concerned about how the schedule can be altered.

"Some years, it works out like this where one team's in the final after two wins and another team is out early, but I think it's a good format the way it is," he said.

"You're not always going to have a tie-breaker and I'm in favour of the day off between the semi and final."

That's something Rimouski didn't have in 2005 in a 4-0 final loss to the Knights.

"I think the semi and final are going to be interesting games," Burnett said.

In many ways, the conundrum is the fault of the Bulls.

"If we played better in the last two minutes of our first game (a 5-4 overtime loss to Spokane), then this game (last night) could mean everything -- a berth in the final," Burnett said. "I would dispute the game doesn't mean anything at all. Obviously, you don't want anyone to get hurt for Friday, but momentum was such a big part of our series with Kitchener in the OHL final and we felt like they dominated Game 7. We felt like we have something to prove to them."

Belleville didn't treat the game like it was simply for last line change rights in the semifinal. The only regular he sat out was Eric Tangradi and he didn't say why.

But there are no longer any secrets between Kitchener and Belleville.

"I think, by Friday, George and I will have pretty much x'ed each other right out of the equation," DeBoer said. "The players are the ones who are going to decide it. Last change is a nice luxury to have, but if you don't have it, you can work around it.

"The way I look it, there's three (now two) games left to be played in our season and I won't be happy unless we win them all."


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