September 17, 2010
The Saint John Sea Dogs have a leg up to host the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup, if last spring's decision offers any indication.
People can bandy seating capacities and luxury suites around, but the determining factor often comes down to the team on the ice. Four months later, that seems fairly evident with the controversial choice to have the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors host in '11 over the equally, perhaps more deserving Windsor Spitfires. The objections stemming from the lack of interest in the OHL in the Toronto area notwithstanding, lo and behold, the Majors will open the season ranked No. 1 in the Canadian Hockey League.
Saint John, ranked No. 2 in the same poll, has formally bid for 2012, along with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Halifax Mooseheads and Shawinigan Cataractes. Just to cut to the quick, the blog Carl Peelash has broken down the odds of each bid succeeding, with the Sea Dogs a 2-1 favourite and the Martin Frk-led Halifax Mooseheads (which hosted in 2000) as a 4-1 second favourite.
Saint John has each base covered. The potential for a Cadillac team in '11-12 is fairly abundant. By most accounts, defenceman Nathan Beaulieu (pictured) along with forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Jurco and Zack Phillips are among the Quebec league's top prospects.
Naive question: given all the criticism the QMJHL has faced about the calibre of the league, wouldn't it want to go with the strongest possible team? Granted, a roster could look radically different between the start of this season and the 2012 post-season. That could be a boon for a candidate such as Shawingian, which boasts a new arena but an only-OK team.
The CHL has also entrusted Saint John with a game in this season's Super Series vs. Team Russia.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has also rotated the tournament since 2000, so ipso facto, it is the Maritimes' turn, on an informal basis. Rimouski played host in '09.
Halifax would be more inviting to tout as a serious contender if not for two big buts. There is always an awareness not to return to the same city again, and the Mooseheads hosted in 2000. The team has been less than competitive, although with Frk and 2011 draft prospects such as forwards Darcy Ashley and Gabriel Desjardins, that might change. Halifax, as the hub of the Canadian Maritimes, can always put up a fight to land a sporting event such as the Memorial Cup.
Cape Breton and Shawinigan stack up more as longshots. The Screaming Eagles, under former world junior head coach Mario Durocher, manage to be competitive year in, year out. However, the arena, Centre 200, is a tad on the small size with a capacity of 5,000.Shawinigan stacks up as the team whose bid is centred around having a new arena, the two-year-old Centre Bionest. The Cataractes will probably in the hunt for a future tournament until they get one. Saint John seems very strong this time around.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.