The Kelowna Rockets would like nothing more than to be competing at the 2013 Memorial Cup.
Even better, they’d like to be doing so as the host team.
The Western Hockey League will announce Wednesday which city will serve as the host site for Canada’s major junior hockey championship in May 2013.
All three finalists—the Rockets, Red Deer Rebels and Saskatoon Blades—will make their final bid presentations this week in Calgary. The league’s board of governors will then cast their votes with a decision expected Wednesday between 4 and 5 p.m. Kelowna time.
The Rockets organization brings experience with it to the bid table having hosted the Memorial Cup in 2004.
If successful this time around, Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton guarantees an even bigger and better show in 2013.
“Everybody that was involved back then is basically involved again this time,” said Hamilton. “They’re all very excited about the chance to host again, we have a lot of new events planned, and we would add more to what we did in 2004. When we hosted, that whole festival idea started right here. We’re ready to take it to another level.”
One of the key criteria in a successful bid is the ability of the host city to put a competitive squad on the ice. There is no question in Hamilton’s mind that the Rockets team will live up to expectations in the spring of 2013.
“We feel really good about our team,” said Hamilton. “Regardless of whether we get the Cup or not, we know we’ll be pretty competitive. We strategically carried a bunch of young guys in preparation for this. It’s a pretty good team now, and will be even better next year.”
The quality of the facility and the potential financial returns guaranteed to the WHL are also factors the board of governors will take into consideration when selecting a host.
In 2010, the last time a WHL team hosted the Cup, the Brandon Wheat Kings guaranteed close to a $1 million kickback. It’s expected all three teams will offer guarantees considerably above that number.
As for the buildings, Hamilton said the 6,007-seat Prospera Place would undergo renovations, including the addition of new dressing rooms and improvements to the press box would also be made.
Red Deer is expected to expand the capacity of its current 5,735-seat home arena, the Centrium, to close to 7,000. Saskatoon’s Credit Union Centre seats 15,000.
Hamilton said each Prairie city has its own strengths.
“Saskatoon is the largest city and it has a bigger facility than the other two, so they’ll have a strong case,” he said.
“In Red Deer, we’re up against a relatively modern building and a solid organization. I know (Rebels owner) Brent Sutter really wants this.”
Still, Hamilton, not surprisingly, likes what Kelowna has to offer.
“Our team is good, I think our financial commitment will be good and, as a group, we’re very organized. We’re ready to do this again.”
Hamilton credited the Rockets’ bid group for putting in the work to compile another impressive presentation.
Chairman Paul Mitchell, who led the successful bid in 2004, is joined by Bill Winters, Cal McCarthy, Rockets vice-president of business development Gavin Hamilton, and Ray Putnam.