Last year I had the privilege of covering the OHL Championship Series games in Niagara. My IceDogs were back in the finals four years after losing to the London Knights, and now they were facing London again. The big interest was in Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner, and the Knights runaway season and stacked team.
It was an amazing experience, and after being a part of an event like that (despite it’s outcome), I wanted more. I covered the Memorial Cup that year remotely, but it wasn’t the same. The Memorial Cup the next year was in Windsor, close enough to travel to, so I got ready.
Work was a mess, so I dove harder into prospect coverage and writing an SB Nation. This year it looked as if the Leafs would have two prospects in the tournament again thanks Seattle) and covering the prospects at Raw Charge, they had five kids in the tournament.
Three days before the tournament I got the confirmation of my access and scrambled to book the train tickets, called my aunt to say “I’m coming to Windsor!”. I kissed the kids goodbye, thanks my lady for letting me runaway for almost two weeks and took off for the city next to Detroit, Windsor, Ontario!
Memorial Cup - Pension Plan Puppets
All of the stories from the tournament can be found here
I covered my opening weekend here, and you can read all about that if you wish. While the games were a bit more lopsided than I’d have preferred it was still great to watch the league champions face off against each other.
Writing about the hockey games was great, but experiencing what can be summarized as a convention for junior hockey fans was the bigger experience. Breakfast with a hundred other fans from coast to coast was a highlight, talking to fans in the concourse, and running into some of the highest of higher ups in the hockey world. Exchanging words with the heads of the OHL & QMJHL, talking to national broadcasters (did you know Jeff Marek isn’t in a suit 24/7? It’s weird), and coaches, players and PR/media guys from teams - despite my perhaps overuse of this gif, the Sea Dogs liked my coverage.
It was a surprise meeting with the former IceDogs Game Day Manager, now working with the CHL, and talking about our teams with the beat writers in the media room.
Most of all though, it was the other fans. I’ve never felt more welcome to just walk into someone else’s party. The local fans here in Windsor are some of the loudest and proudest I’ve seen in any league. The loudest rink I’ve been in ever was the WFCU last night as the Spitfires players jumped off the bench and ran to their goalie to celebrate.
What is one of the most tiring, exhausting, and fun vacations I’ve taken off work, is now one of the memories I’ll have forever. Since it’s my time to write, I’ll pull a TSN and write an article and make it all about me.
Thank you to the CHL for not being as anti-internet newspaper as the other team we cover here. I got the same access and treatment as the Toronto Sun, TSN, and local papers.
Thank you to the Sea Dogs, Otters, Spitfires, and Thunderbirds players for answering stupid questions from a guy hiding in a plant.
Thank you to the best, most loyal fans in hockey - junior hockey fans. Special thanks to the OHL Fanboys and the section 104 tailgate. Couldn’t have had a better place to escape the arena and see some sun.
Thank you to my aunt and uncle for letting me live in their basement, a blogger couldn’t ask for a better place to sleep.
Thank you to all the volunteers at the Memorial Cup, driving, feeding, and assisting the whole two weeks.
Thanks to everyone here at SBN who helped out spell checking and tweaking my stuff to make it readable. Saima and Acha at Raw Charge, Katya, nafio, and Acha again here at PPP.
Thanks to every one who read my stuff and all of the Memorial Cup coverage across the hockey blogs: PPP, Raw Charge, Second City Hockey, Five For Howling, Eyes on the Prize, and Canes Country. By the way if any of the dozen or so people I met at the tournament and asked me “why doesn’t SBN have a junior hockey site?” are reading, you can email SBN here. Be loud and and get your friends to ask as well.
Most of all thanks to my wife, who despite running a daycare and is surrounded by kids for 10 hours a day, agreed to become a single mom while I ran away to sports writer fantasy camp.
It’s been a great time, and I’ll never forget it.
Now, to head back to work and see if the broadcasting layoff monster is waiting in my cubicle.