Opening up a tournament like this is always a big deal. The host city wants to go out of it’s way to prove it was the best choice out of all the bidders, and Windsor is doing a good job so far, showing why it was chosen over other, unnamed, bidders to host the 99th Mastercard Memorial Cup.
On Thursday evening, the Memorial Cup made it’s way down the Detroit River to the city of Windsor, to a tournament opening banquet hosted by the mayor.
The historic trophy ventured along the Detroit River Thursday evening from Sarnia on board the Canadian Coast Guard Patrol vessel Constable Carriere before docking at Dieppe Gardens.
From there it was off-loaded and embarked on a military led parade through the streets of downtown Windsor to the Cenotaph for a ceremony that included Royal Canadian Legion veterans and dignitaries.
The procession included participation from Windsor Police Services, Royal Canadian Legion Colour Party Zone A-1, Sterling Heights Police Colour Party, Royal Canadian Navy, Windsor Regiment, Essex and Kent Regiment, #31 Service Battalion, RCMP, CBSA, Veterans, Cadet Units, Windsor Fire Department, and Military G-Wagons, M-37’s, and 43 Willys Jeeps.
The program at the Cenotaph included First Nations Drummers, the singing of both Canadian and American national anthems, the playing of The Last Post, Scottish Pipers, a wreath laying at the Cenotaph by WWII veteran Ralph Mayville, Gun Salute by members of the R.C.N.A Firing Party, Presentation of the Colours by the most Senior Veterans Organization, and the singing of God Save the Queen.
The event concluded with a parade of the Memorial Cup to City Hall where the trophy was displayed for public photo opportunities.
Happening in the WFCU centre community rinks are free fan expos, featuring set ups from the Hockey Hall of Fame, local hockey programs, and local military regiments.
There’s also a Memorial Cup store, Chrysler/Dodge are running their Hometown Hockey events here featuring car giveaways, a race that takes you through the Chrysler Pacifica in goalie pads, box hockey, ball hockey, and booths for Scouts Canada, Girl Guides, and other local groups.
This weekend, I also stopped by the annual Memorial Cup Fan Breakfast, a fan run event that is hosted in a local Royal Canadian Legion branch each year since 2006.
There was raffles and auctions of signed sticks and jerseys from OHL teams and some NHLers, a signed Eric Lindros stick and a Pekka Rinne Predators jersey were available. The biggest draw at the auction was a team signed ‘pink in the rink’ Windsor Spitfires jersey that went for over $300.
It was a great event with a few dozen CHL teams jerseys present, and items brought by fans and sent from teams for door prizes to almost represent every team in the OHL, QMJHL, and WHL.
I spoke with the organizer of the event, Julie Kingsbury, to find out more about the event.
Q: How did breakfast get to where it is today?
A: In 2006, it was started just to help people bring people together, and 2007was the only year we've missed. In 2008 the Kitchener fan club was running it, in 2009 Shawinigan we helped run it there as well.
In 2010 in Brandon, we heard that they weren't going to do it. So in 2 weeks, I found a venue, and put it together. It was nowhere near what we have now, it was just the breakfast and door prizes. In Mississauga 2011, we decided we wanted to give back to the community. We started bringing in raffle prizes, and it has grown to what it is today.
We started fundraising in Mississauga and raised $1,600, and last year in Red Deer, we raised voter $10,000 and we want to improve on that every year.
Q: How do you pick your charities? Is it always the team foundation?
A: If we have a contact with the team we will ask them if they have a charity we want to support. We have used other charities such as KidSport, Jumpstart, Special Olympics of Southern Ontario. We leave it up to the team if we have a contact, or we will do one of the national charities.
Q: Do you have an estimate of how many people come? It looks like almost a couple hundred in there.
A: It's usually between 150-200. The most we've had was 175 in Shawinigan.
Q: You had the Memorial Cup here today, was it just a request, or did they reach out?
A: They came last year, we know some people at the CHL, and we asked if they could bring it. This year we're on the Memorial Cup tour. We're not a sanctioned event, but they do bring the Memorial Cup, and donate some jerseys for us to auction off too. We have teams donating, and most of what we have here is donated by fans.
Today the breakfast was at $9,460 when the raffle and auction winners were announced. When they said they were under last years take, the fans opened up their wallets and dropped twenty’s, fifty’s and hundred’s into the bucket and got the total to $10,600. The take will be split between Knobby’s Kids and the Windsor Spitfires Foundation.
The best part of a tournament like this is meeting the fans who travel and the volunteers who spend their time helping everyone around the tournament and events.
I spoke with Seattle fans who worked last minute to get here after the Thunderbirds won the WHL title. Fans of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies who have been to the past 13 tournaments and were hoping to see their team again.
Windsor Spitfires fans, Guelph Storm fans, Calgary Hitmen and Kootenay Ice fans. People travelling from all over the continent to watch one of the best weeks of hockey.
Welcome to Windsor pic.twitter.com/15C1kJlYKh— OHL Fanboys Podcast (@ohlfanboys) May 19, 2017
I even came across a tailgate in the parking lot hosted by the OHL Fanboys Podcast. They let me sign the roof of the trailer and even hosted me for a chat while we played Mario Kart.
Transportation to/from the arena is provided for big shot media guys like me, which is nice, keeping travel costs down. The shuttles are driven by volunteers and speaking to them is nice to find out why they’re helping at this event.
One was a student at the University of Windsor, over from China studying electrical engineering. She was volunteering because she enjoyed her time working at the swimming tournament held in the WFCU last winter, and wanted to help out this time as well. She’s never seen a hockey game in person before, so perhaps they can paper the unsold sections with volunteers who are working so hard for free. Another driver is a longtime Spitfires fan who wanted to make the tournament a success, she and her husband traveled to other Memorial Cups and wanted to part of the experience.
It’s been a great weekend at the Memorial Cup so far, and it open with the hometown Spitfires defeated the QMJHL champion Sea Dogs, the Erie Otters beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, and last night the Spitfires went 2-0 beating the back to back game playing Thunderbirds.
There’s more coming later this week, and tonight the Erie Otters take on the Saint John Sea Dogs in a showdown of the two favourites.