The Ontario Hockey League sent out a release today to announce that the Barrie Colts, Windsor Spitfires and London Knights were the finalists in the bidding for the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament. The tournament will be the 96th edition of the Canadian Hockey League's annual championship between the winners of the three leagues and the host franchise.
Per the release:
All three clubs will present before the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup Site Selection Committee on Wednesday April 17, 2013, in Toronto, ON. The Site Selection Committee is comprised of five leaders in the sports industry including Toronto Blue Jays President and CEO Paul Beeston, former OHL and NHL Executive and Director of Central Scouting Frank Bonello, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Jim Gregory, and President of Broadcast, Rogers Media (Sportsnet) Scott Moore. Ex officio members of the Site Selection Committee include OHL Legal Counsel Gord Kirke, and OHL Commissioner David Branch.
The successful host centre for the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup will be announced in early May to provide the delegates of the successful host committee the opportunity to travel to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in time for the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup which takes place May 17-26.
The 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup will take place May 16-25 featuring the league champions from the Ontario Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, along with a host team from the OHL. [OHL]
The names on the list are none too surprising. Windsor and London had been rumoured to be making bids. Kitchener who debuted their new arena could have been a contender, but they hosted the tournament back in 2008. The 2011 tournament was played to a sparse, quiet crowd at Mississauga's Hershey Centre which is none too appealing for TV viewers, so bringing the cup to a hot-bed is in the OHL's interest.
London and Windsor are two of the traditional powers in the OHL Western Conference both on the ice and at the gate. The Barrie Colts play in the Barrie Molson Centre, a small building even by junior hockey standards that sits a little over 4,100. Barrie has averaged about 3,700 fans this season to watch the Central Division-leading Colts. In the Colts' favour is the blue-chip Aaron Ekblad, the exceptional OHL player of the 1996 birth year who is projected to be a top National Hockey League draft pick in June of 2014. He'd be a marquee name for the television audiences.
The London Knights have a good collection of young talent and never seem starved to find players lately. Bo Horvat, Max Domi and Seth Griffith are three forwards who will still have junior eligibility next season and likely won't be playing in the NHL, even if Horvat and Domi go in the first couple of rounds. London hosted—and won—the tournament in 2005 along with the OHL championship.
Windsor is the odd-man out here. While Windsorites typically pack the 6,000+ seat WCFU Centre for Spitfires games, the OHL did levy fines on the Spitfires for player recruitment violations. Since the punishment involves a first-round selection in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection, it likely won't be a player ready to compete in the OHL by next spring, but it's tough to imagine the OHL rewarding the team after getting caught and made an example of this past summer. The CHL had a bit of a headache with a slow start to the Saskatoon Blades, this years' host, before the Blades were able to pull off a 18-game winning streak that came to an end this weekend.