Three months after losing out on the World Juniors, Brandon's consolation prize comes not in a gift bag but in a Memorial Cup.
The Brandon Wheat Kings were unanimously awarded the 2010 Memorial Cup at the Western Hockey League's board of governors meetings in Calgary yesterday. The Wheaties beat out submissions from the Everett Silvertips and the Kelowna Rockets for the right to host the Canadian Hockey League national championship, which will go from May 14-23, 2010.
This past July, Brandon lost its co-host proposal with Winnipeg to house the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship to a joint bid from Regina-Saskatoon. In August, with little time to re-group and to re-work the finances, the Wheat Kings put in their bid for the event and came out a winner this time around.
"It's a huge victory for Brandon," said Wheat Kings governor, general manager and head coach Kelly McCrimmon yesterday. "I think the league has always felt small markets are important and perhaps, unlike some leagues, we feel that it's imperative that all markets have the opportunity to host events and to be successful. For Brandon this is going to have real meaningful impact on our organization."
It will be the first time Brandon will host the Memorial Cup without a partner. In 1980, the Wheat City shared hosting duties with Regina.
The Brandon bid comes with an $800,000 profit guarantee to the CHL and more importantly, a much-needed renovation to the Keystone Centre. McCrimmon and the organizing committee have secured $5 million from the province and the city -- money that will be targeted for a number of upgrades in the facility, including the addition of luxury suites, a new video score clock, a facelift to the existing press box and an additional press box, a new Wheat Kings dressing room, and new arena lighting.
"It will give a real lasting legacy for the hockey club and the building," offered McCrimmon.
WHL president Ron Robison said the Keystone Centre renovation, along with Brandon's standing in the league as one of the most competitive and trusted franchises, were the tipping points in securing the host duties. So much so, that the Brandon pitch was the only bid heard by the board of governors.
"In fairness to Everett and Kelowna, once they had witnessed the Brandon presentation, which was first up, they decided at that point in time to put their support behind Brandon," he said. "We had great confidence in (those markets), but given the fact that Brandon has been a member of the league for over 40 years and had put together such an impressive presentation, (they) chose to support the Brandon bid."
The Memorial Cup is a four-team tournament featuring the champions from the WHL, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, plus the host team.
The 2009 Memorial Cup will be hosted by Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) May 15-24, 2009. The Spokane Chiefs (WHL) are the defending Memorial Cup champs. Brandon has never won a Memorial Cup although the Wheat Kings represented the WHL in 1979, 1995 and 1996.