On May 23, 2004, Tom Dyas was among the 6,577 captivated fans inside Prospera Place who witnessed the making of Kelowna hockey history.
As hosts of the Canadian Hockey League’s national championship for the first time, the Kelowna Rockets defeated the Gatineau Olympiques 2-1 to secure the franchise’s first ever Memorial Cup title.
Celebrating alongside Dyas in the stands on that warm, spring Okanagan day was his father, 83-year-old Harry, and Tom’s son, Lyndon.
“It was electric, an amazing feeling, unforgettable to see that and be part of it,” Dyas said of the 2004 Memorial Cup. “To see the home team win, in that atmosphere, it’s something you never forget.
“Being here now to help with this bid, it’s like turning back the hands of time,” he added. “When I told dad about the fact that Kelowna was bidding again, he said he’s looking forward to being at this (Memorial Cup), too. He’ll be 99.”
With Dyas serving as the point man for the bid committee, the Rockets have thrown their hat in the ring to host the Memorial Cup tournament for the second time in 2020.
Last week, Dyas and the Kelowna contingent, headed up by Rockets’ GM Bruce Hamilton and including Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, spent several days in Regina at the 2018 Memorial Cup.
Kelowna 2020 Bid Committee is in Regina meeting w/ officials, @CHLHockey, @WHL to sharpen their bid for 2020 #MCMemorialCup in Kelowna. TY @CityofRegina for your great hospitality & good luck to all!#MemorialCup2018 #regina #Kelowna2020 #MemorialCupKelowna #MMC100 pic.twitter.com/Gt6ebytY0B
— Kelowna Rockets #HumboldtStrong (@Kelowna_Rockets) May 18, 2018
Dyas said the visit was an important step in the process as the Rockets continue to fine-tune and strengthen their bid for 2020.
“It went well, it gave us a chance to connect with local committees there and to see what they had in place,” said Dyas, the Rockets’ 2020 bid chairman. “The process of accreditation, the tracking of volunteers and setting that up, from national anthems to VIPs and a number of other areas that are involved in an event of his magnitude. I would say we (Kelowna committee) have most of the boxes ticked already, but it was very useful to see the events as they were taking place.”
Among the main criteria for teams bidding to host the Memorial Cup is guaranteeing a substantial financial return to the Western Hockey League and its member teams, having adequate infrastructure in place, such as the arena and hotels, and icing a competitive team.
The Rockets met all those standards for the 2004 event and Bruce Hamilton fully expects the same to hold true for the 2020 tournament.
With the Rockets footing the bill for the season-end championship, Hamilton anticipates the club will offer a kickback of somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million to the WHL.
In order to meet those commitments, and with the ever-increasing costs of hosting a national sporting event, Hamilton said community support will be vital.
“Having it here, so much of it will be based on season tickets,” Hamilton said. “The guarantee is that fans get to see at least three, maybe four, of the best teams in the country.
“We already have one of the largest season-ticket bases in the CHL and if we can beef that up,” he added, “we can show them there’s going to be no problem in us hosting this again.”
In 2004, Hamilton said the Rockets pushed the non-game events to a new level, with tents, displays and kiosks surrounding the arena, creating a bona fide, festival-like atmosphere.
Hamilton said the Rockets plan to up the ante in 2020.
“We want to sell it as an entire downtown event,” said Hamilton. “We’re partnering with Tourism Kelowna, and we’re going to really make this an event for the downtown core, where people really feel like they’re part of something.
“We’ll have people coming in from all over the country at a nice time of the year and we want them to remember it.”
Along with the considerable expense of hosting the Memorial Cup comes significant economic spin-offs for Kelowna. With restaurants, hotels and other businesses in high demand for 10 days, it’s estimated the 2020 championship would pump a minimum of $12 to $15 million into the local economy.
Competition to host the 2020 tournament is expected to come from a pair of the Rockets’ B.C. Division rivals, the Victoria Royals and Kamloops Blazers.
Like Bruce Hamilton, Royals general manager Cam Hope said community support and quality amenities will be crucial to each bid.
“We think we’ve done a pretty good job in that regard,” said Hope. “We’re one of the few teams that’s increased our attendance year after year. We have a good track record in the city for hosting events. I don’t think that necessarily distinguishes us from Kelowna and Kamloops…but our infrastucture is set up for tourism, we have an international airport nearby, a huge number of hotels and a vibrant downtown area.
“I don’t think the WHL could go wrong with any of the three teams,” he added. “But we’re a younger team, Victoria has never hosted before, so we feel like we’re ready.”
Teams bidding for the 2020 Memorial Cup will make their final presentations to an independent selection panel on Oct. 2 and 3 in Calgary.
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