Memorial Cup format needs to change

The Windsor Spitfires won their second straight Memorial Cup on Sunday night beating the host Brandon Wheat Kings by a score of 9-1 in the final; a real barn burner of an affair.

The Wheat Kings qualified for the final by beating the WHL Champion Calgary Hitmen in an overtime thriller. The Wheat Kings qualified for the tournament by having the right address.

The lopsided final along with Hitmen loss only further fuels the debate about the format of the Memorial Cup Tournament. The Hitmen won the WHL Championship and the Ed Chynoweth Cup back in early May. They beat Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Brandon and Tri City in best of seven series.

Yet they lose a single game to the host team and it costs them a chance to compete for the biggest prize in junior hockey.

Should the format be altered? Should the host team be allowed to play in the tournament despite not winning anything prior to the tournament? Is this a fair assessment of who the best team is?

No other major sports league has such a weird format.

For instance, to be a little dramatic, the Miami Dolphins don’t get to play in the Super Bowl every year just because the game is being played in the city? Nor do the Toronto Argonauts get a free pass to the Grey Cup just because it is being played in the Rogers Center.

If the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) really wants to find out who the best junior hockey team is, they should have all the champions play in a tournament, and that is it.

From 1972 through to 1982, that is how things were done. However, in 1983 they switched the format to include a pre-determined fourth team; the host city.

A way to possibly attract more fans the stadium, most likely. More fans results in more revenue for the league. It was an easy solution; however it diminishes the merit of the tournament.

This should be a tournament to decide the absolute best junior team, and therefore the teams involved should all of have won their respective leagues; every team, not three of four.

Let’s us rewind back to 2007 when the Vancouver Giants won the Memorial Cup, as the host city, beating the Medicine Hat Tigers, the WHL Champion, 3-1 in the championship game. Vancouver lost the Ed Chynoweth Cup to the Tigers in seven games in the WHL playoffs.

Is it fair to call Vancouver the ‘best’ team in junior hockey in 2007 because they beat Medicine Hat in a single game, yet Medicine Hat bested the Giants over a gruelling seven game series?

I do not think so.

The same could be said for this year when Brandon beat Calgary in the semi final game. The Hitmen beat Brandon in five games, albeit close affairs for the most part, in the Eastern Conference Final. Calgary then demolished the Wheaties 5-1 in the final round robin game of the Memorial Cup. This all led to a Jay Fehr overtime winner that sent Brandon to the Memorial cup Final, and sent Calgary on plane back home.

I am not saying that Brandon is not a good hockey team, but do they deserve to be in a tournament that should be a ‘tournament of champions’ when they are not really the champions of anything.

I think the format of this tournament should be reviewed, and if it does not change, which is probably will not, the credibility of the competition weakens dramatically.