KINGSTON — It appears the Kingston Frontenacs have lost out on their bid to host the 2011 Memorial Cup.
The Ontario Hockey League announced on Sunday night that it has scheduled a media conference for Monday in Mississauga to announce the site of next year’s national major junior hockey championship.
Seeing as OHL commissioner David Branch, Mississauga St. Michael's Majors owner Eugene Melnyk and Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion are slated to attend the news conference, it’s a safe bet the Memorial Cup is going to the city just west of Toronto next year.
The Frontenacs were one of four OHL teams bidding to host the event, along with the Majors, the Windsor Spitfires and the Barrie Colts.
When reached Sunday night, Frontenacs owner Doug Springer said, “I’m aware of the (news conference advisory).
“The league is going to make an announcement and then we’ll have something to say.”
Kingston also lost out on its bid for the Memorial Cup in 2008, the last time the event was held in Ontario (Kitchener).
The Memorial Cup is rotated between the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Western Hockey League and the OHL. This year’s event starts Friday in Brandon, Man.
The Mississauga announcement has been rumoured for several weeks. When the OHL decided not to make an announcement during the league final, won by the Windsor Spitfires for the second year in a row, it raised speculation that Windsor, considered a front-runner, was going to lose out to Mississauga.
Most OHL observers billed Kingston as a long shot throughout the bid process. While the Frontenacs did improve in the standings and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference this season, they lost to the Brampton Battalion in Game 7 of a first-round playoff series.
That loss extended Kingston’s playoff winless streak to 12 years.
Branch, whenever asked about the Memorial Cup, has stressed that having a strong team is one of the most important factors in determining a bid winner. Clearly, history has to play at least a small part in that evaluation — and Kingston hasn’t been able to produce a playoff winner in the past 12 years.
Kingston also has had attendance issues, though so has Mississauga. The Frontenacs fell more than 2,000 seats short of selling out this year's OHL all-star game.
The choice of Mississauga probably won’t make Branch a popular man around the league.
While the Majors, under general manager/coach Dave Cameron, have been a consistent contender, the Hershey Centre is closer to empty than full on most nights.
In fact, Mississauga drew worse crowds this season than Kingston, another city that has had disappointing attendance for most games.
However, Melnyk, also the owner of the National Hockey League's Ottawa Senators, made it clear at the bid presentations that he would make sure the event is financially viable for the OHL.
Giving the Memorial Cup to Mississauga also offer the OHL a chance to showcase the league's most desirable product to the Greater Toronto Area — the biggest market (by size) in Canada. Both current OHL teams in the GTA — the Majors and the Brampton Battalion — have not done well at the box office.
The OHL also has not had the Memorial Cup in an Eastern Conference city since Ottawa in 1999. Mississauga will break that streak.
The Majors, one of the younger teams in the league this season, advanced to the Eastern Conference final. They are projected to be a very strong outfit next season.
The Spitfires, conversely, will lose more players to graduation.
However, the Spitfires play in front of some of the biggest crowds in the league in economically-challenged Windsor. While the Spitfires may not be the OHL favourite next season, their two championships in a row prove general manager Warren Rychel and coach Bob Boughner are running a very successful franchise.
The Colts, meanwhile, advanced to the OHL final this season, but lose many of their key players to graduation.