CHL Needs to Decide Where the Memorial Cup Will Be Played

Under normal circumstances, we would have known where the Memorial Cup would be played months ago, but here we are towards the end of November still waiting for the announcement.

While nothing is certain for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Western Hockey League (WHL), or the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), not knowing where the Memorial Cup will be played is another element that makes the 2020-21 season for the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) so uncertain.

What Do We Know So Far?

We know quite a bit about the 2021 Memorial Cup. The OHL released their updated return-to-play plan on Oct. 29, 2020, which highlighted the planned start date for the Memorial Cup. Currently, the plan is to have it begin on June 17, 2021.

It is also known that Oshawa and Sault Ste. Marie are the two cities who bid to be the host. This means that either the Oshawa Generals or the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds will be granted an automatic berth into the tournament as the host.

Oshawa Generals 2015 Memorial Cup
Oshawa Generals, 2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup, May 31, 2105 (Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

We also know that the QMJHL has already begun playing, albeit with issues, but they are back on the ice. The WHL is scheduled to begin on Jan. 8, 2021, while the OHL is planning on kicking things off on Feb. 4, 2020.

Related: OHL Needs to Play for the Players With or Without Contact

All of that being said, the list of things we don’t know is just as long, if not longer. As mentioned, we don’t know where the tournament will be played but there are more things on top of that.

One thing no one can answer right now is how the seasons from the three leagues will play out. If the QMJHL is any indication, it’s going to be difficult. How will the tournament work? Will it be a bubble? We don’t know. But these are things that need to be sorted out.

Why We Need to Know

If you aren’t from Oshawa or Sault Ste. Marie, you might not care where this tournament is hosted. If you do care, this is an announcement that you have been waiting for. Knowing who is going to host is the difference between buying tickets to see your team in the tournament and not caring at all.

But the big need to know is for the city who does host the tournament. Waiting too long could limit what is able to be done to prepare. Although both clubs have done everything they think that they need to do to be able to host the tournament, things could pop up.

Memorial Cup
Memorial Cup (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Should there be a need to form a bubble, the host city will need time to prepare. If tickets can be sold, there needs to be time to prepare. Waiting until the last second to make this call isn’t an option.

There is also the issue of the team on the ice. It could be the difference between making a big trade to send that young player and a handful of draft picks away for a player who will only be around for one season.

At the end of the day, it’s better to know than not to know. Awarding the Memorial Cup as soon as possible doesn’t hurt anything. If you need to move it somewhere else at the last second, so be it. But having some plan in place would be helpful.

Who Should Host?

Here’s where things get a little interesting. Picking who should host the Memorial Cup depends on many factors, but potentially the most important is COVID-19.

One thing that should play into this decision is proximity to the problem areas in Ontario. Oshawa could pose more of a risk than Sault Ste. Marie when it comes to the virus.

Essar Centre in Sault Ste Marie. Photo Courtesy: Dave Jewell THW

When you boil everything down, Sault Ste. Marie is likely the best option. It offers somewhere where the daily COVID-19 cases are far fewer than what has been seen in Oshawa. It is also more distanced from the areas hit hardest that are mostly in the greater Toronto area and Ottawa.

I have been on the Sault Ste. Marie train for quite some time after the pandemic began. Originally, I thought Oshawa would be the better option, but the Soo now offers the better package overall.

Come June, this whole COVID-19 pandemic could be a thing of the past and might matter very little, but for now, the CHL needs to keep being cautious, take it into consideration, but they still need to pick a host city as soon as possible.

Sign up for our regular 'Prospects Newsletter' for all the latest.