The 2020 Memorial Cup will be unlike any previous national junior hockey championship, say organizers of the winning bid to host the event in Kelowna.
The tournament will be a celebration of hockey that extends beyond the Kelowna Rockets’ home of Prospera Place to involve the entire community, bid committee chairman Tom Dyas says.
“A great deal of the credit for the success of this bid goes out to our many community partners and, most importantly, the fans who continually support us,” Dyas said Wednesday after Kelowna was selected over Lethbridge, Alta., and Kamloops to host the tournament.
“With a dedicated host committee, enthusiastic fan support and the support of the City of Kelowna, we can’t wait to welcome the Canadian Hockey League and its fans to a tournament that will certainly be unique and unlike anything to have come before it,” Dyas said.
Bruce Hamilton, owner and president of the Kelowna Rockets, said he was “honoured and thrilled” by the league’s decision to award the tournament to Kelowna.
“Our bid committee did a spectacular job,” Hamilton said. “In some ways, Kelowna sells itself as a great city to host anything, but we still had to go in there and give a great presentation.”
Kelowna hosted the Memorial Cup in 2004, when the Rockets defeated the Gatineau Olympiques to win the national championship.
The success of that tournament, with sold-out games and a first-ever Memorial Cup fan festival, was referenced by Western Hockey League president Ron Robison when he made the announcement in Calgary that Kelowna would again be the host city in 2020.
“We are confident the Kelowna Rockets will do an outstanding job,” Robison said. “Of course, as host of the 2004 Memorial Cup, the community responded in such a positive way and provided us with one of the most memorable Memorial Cups in our history.”
The host city is voted on by the board of governors of the 22 teams in the Western Hockey League. Voting results are not released.
As host city, Kelowna is guaranteed to be one of the four teams competing in the 2020 Memorial Cup regardless of the outcome of the team’s 2019-20 season. The other three teams are the champions of the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“We have no doubt that with the leadership of Bruce Hamilton and the Hamilton family that the Rockets will not only assemble a very competitive, strong host team, but the entire organization will take it to the next level as far as a fan experience for the 2020 Memorial Cup,” Robison said.
The Rockets are one of the most successful franchises in the Canadian Hockey League, having competed in five Memorial Cups in the past 16 years. The 2004 tournament, however, was the only one the Rockets won.
Tourism Kelowna, which helped the Rockets prepare the bid, estimates the economic impact of the 10-day tournament in late May 2020 will be between $12 million and $15 million in terms of visitor spending at hotels, restaurants and attractions.
“What a great win for Kelowna,” Mayor Colin Basran said. “This is an excellent opportunity to once again showcase Kelowna’s excellence as a host for high-profile events.”
In a political twist to the bid process, Basran and Dyas shared a stage at Prospera Place when the Rockets announced they would try to host the 2020 Memorial Cup. Now, however, the two men are the main contenders for mayor in the Oct. 20 civic election.
Past bidders on Memorial Cups presented the league with guarantees of the event’s financial success, regardless of ticket sales.
For example, the Saskatoon Blades in 2013 promised the Canadian Hockey League would receive $3.5 million if the tournament was held in that city, and the government of Saskatchewan backed up that pledge.
When ticket sales and other revenue fell short of projections at the Saskatoon tournament, the Saskatchewan government did have to make a payment to the CHL of almost $700,000.
When the Rockets launched their Memorial Cup bid in May, Hamilton said the team would not expect or want any similar financial guarantees from either city or provincial officials.
“We’re not asking for backing from anybody,” he said at the time. “We take the risk. We’re not asking anybody else to.”
On Tuesday, Hamilton said he couldn’t disclose how much money the Rockets had offered the CHL for the right to host the 2020 tournament. However, he did say the amount was a “heck of a lot less” than the $3.5 million pledged in 2013 by the Saskatoon Blades.
A press release sent out by the City of Kelowna minutes after Kelowna was chosen as host for the 2020 Memorial Cup stated a funding request to help in the staging of the tournament will be presented by municipal staff during city council’s budget deliberations in December.
City officials were not immediately available to comment on how much the public funding request might be or for what the money might be used.
The release also noted Memorial Cup organizers would likely submit grant applications to the provincial Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
Hamilton said Wednesday the provincial government had offered the same kind of financial support to both Kamloops and Kelowna.