Rumours have swirled for a few years that Sportsnet wants to jazz up the Memorial Cup for the tournament's 100th anniversary. The most common is a "March Madness" style tournament with a bracket made up of teams playing one off games to get to the finals. The individual league championships would still be played as normal, though no comments are made as to what will happen for the champions.
I, however, am full of ideas.
So, we have the bracket Idea. 16 teams is a nice, or, if you will, sweet number. How would we fill them in? We take the league champions of course, and a host team, that's 4. We invite the teams from each league who made the final four of their respective tournaments, there's another 9.
We're now at 13 teams. We have two options here: A wild card from each league, whatever team had the most points from each league that didn't make their respective final four, or just three wild card teams. I'm inclined to go with the former, as it keeps everyone happy.
We'll use this years CHL playoffs as our template. our teams from each league are:
1 - London Knights - Champion
2 - Niagara IceDogs
3 - Erie Otters
4 - Barrie Colts
5 - Kingston Frontenacs (WC)
1 - Rouyn-Noranda Huskies - Champion
2 - Shawinigan Cataractes
3 - Saint John Sea Dogs
4 - Moncton Wildcats
5 - Val D'or Foureurs (WC)
1 - Brandon Wheat Kings - Champion
2 - Seattle Thunderbirds
3 - Kelowna Rockets
4 - Red Deer Rebels
5 - Victoria Royals (WC)
Ah, our first roadblock. If we go by the traditional rotation, the QMJHL is in line to host in 2019, as the OHL is hosting next year. However, the CHL will want a major player to host the tournament, one with an arena big enough for a spectacle and a market that gives broadcasters, media, and fans the best travel options. Rumours say that's the OHL teams, and locations offered have been Kitchener (Arena capacity: 6,268, last hosted in 2008), Ottawa (Arena capacity: 10,585, last hosted in 1999), London (Arena capacity: 9,046, last hosted in 2014), and Toronto, in the Air Canada Centre (Arena capacity: 20,270, Never Hosted).
I'm going to knock Toronto off right away. As beloved as this tournament is, hoping to see 20,000 tickets per game in a market that isn not junior hockey friendly is too big a gamble. London has hosted twice since the turn of the century, so for fairness we'll remove them. Between Kitchener and Ottawa, I'd go with Ottawa and The Arena at TD Place. It has a capacity closer to what they are looking for. Also the closeness to Quebec gives a better chance at a blended crowd.
Seeding will give top spot in each bracket to the Champions & host, then the final four teams will be ordered by points, and the wild cards will make up the bottom 3 spots, and here it is, in picture form.
We have some interesting first round matches here. Rouyn-Noranda takes on what was the OHL Eastern Conference favourite in the first match of the tournament. We get a rematch of the WHL Final between Seattle and Brandon right away too. London/Val D'or is another match of pre-playoff favourites and Niagara/Ottawa replay their first round series. Most groups have a mix of the three leagues, except what we'll call the Sakic Conference, which is three WHL teams and one Q team.
With a total of 15 games to play we would need to have multiple games on some days to make things work within two weeks of kick off.
The best schedule I can come up with is below. The top bracket team gets the 8PM game, where some games that could fetch higher ratings (based on teams playoff finish) gets slotted on weekend afternoons. Days off between the start of the second round, the third round is split to two days, and the final is played two Fridays after the start.
I gave the home team the opening game. That winner will have almost a week off, but this tournament is being re-worked for TV, remember, so we need good slots on each game.
|May 18||Niagara IceDogs||Ottawa 67's||8:00PM|
|May 19||Shawinigan Cataractes||Red Deer Rebels||2:00PM|
|May 19||Val D'or Foeurers||London Knights||8:00PM|
|May 20||Moncton Wildcats||Erie Otters||2:00PM|
|May 20||Kingston Frontenacs||Rouyn-Noranda Huskies||8:00PM|
|May 21||Saint John Sea Dogs||Victoria Royals||8:00PM|
|May 22||Barrie Colts||Kelowna Rockets||8:00PM|
|May 23||Seattle Thunderbirds||Brandon Wheat Kings||8:00PM|
|May 26||Lemieux Conference||Final||2:00PM|
|May 26:||Orr Conference||Final||8:00PM|
|May 27:||Sakic Conference||Final||2:00PM|
|May 27:||Gretzky Conference||Final||8:00PM|
|May 29||Right Bracket||Final||8:00PM|
|May 31||Left Bracket||Final||8:00PM|
|June 1||Memorial Cup||Final||8:00PM|
I can see the flaws here already. This is a very long tournament, and June 1st is Stanley Cup Final Time.
There are two options: start the tournament earlier, which would mean the leagues would need to start their seasons earlier so there's a guarantee the playoffs end with a week off before this begins.
Accelerate the schedule but doubling up all first/second round games on each day:
|May 23||Lemieux Conference||Final||2:00PM|
|May 23||Orr Conference||Final||8:00PM|
|May 24:||Sakic Conference||Final||2:00PM|
|May 24:||Gretzky Conference||Final||8:00PM|
|May 26||Right Bracket||Final||2:00PM|
|May 26||Left Bracket||Final||8:00PM|
|May 27||Memorial Cup||Final||8:00PM
The tournament is wrapped up a week earlier this way, however some games will see ratings dip due to weekday afternoons, this may not be what is wanted, especially for rounds 3/4.
Then we also have logistics involved. 16 teams coming in to town means, say, 40 people per team (rosters, hockey ops and business staff) gives us 640 people before we add CHL leagues officials, scouts, NHL front office people, broadcast staff, other media, and finally fans & families of the players. A boon to the host city hotel industry for sure, but that will drastically cut down on possible hosts if this format is carried on past the 100th anniversary, even further than we've seen them cut down already.
So we've made the tournament more TV friendly, made it into an even bigger spectacle with more teams to get more fans watching, and will feature more prospects to showcase.
Is it perfect? No. Is it better than what we currently have? Could be, could be. The biggest challenge here is to sell thousands more tickets to the event.
I wouldn't be very opposed to this, what about you?
Drop a comment on what you'd change, what you'd like to see from a re-done format.