Just after noon today, the Canadian Hockey League is set to announce that the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors will be the host team for the 2011 Memorial Cup tournament. Bringing major junior hockey’s pinnacle event to Hershey Centre, and Mississauga, is the absolute WRONG decision for the CHL to make. The city, and fans of the Majors (both of them) do not deserve this honour. Not even close. And deserving cities like Barrie and Windsor just got screwed.
There were four teams in the Ontario Hockey League in the running to host this event. The Majors, Barrie Colts, Kingston Frontenacs and Windsor Spitfires. Among those three, the Majors stand out for one very good reason – worst fan support in the OHL. That’s right…the worst. Even worse than Brampton – and I know that’s hard to believe.
Up until three seasons ago, the Majors played their games as the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors. Their home rink was tiny St. Michael’s College School Arena, at the NE corner of Bathurst and St. Clair in Toronto. It was often full – only about 1,200 people – and very, very loud. But, of course, this small attendance figure wouldn’t make smug owner Eugene Melnyk any money, would it? Like he doesn’t have enough money. So Eugene worked out a deal with the OHL and the Mississauga IceDogs.
After playing at Hershey Centre for about a decade, the IceDogs simply packed up and moved to St. Catharines. The Majors then swiftly abandoned any fans they had in Toronto, and greasily slid into Hershey Centre. They played their first game there in October 2007.
In their three seasons in Mississauga, the Majors have played 14 home playoff games. I have been at 12 of them. Over the years, I have also attended about 50 regular season OHL games at Hershey Centre. And, with my own two eyes, I have only ever seen the building full one time. ONCE! That was for Game Four of the 2004 OHL Championship Series. The Guelph Storm were playing the Mississauga IceDogs. But, here’s the kicker. The only reason the rink was full that night is that thousands of fans had come from nearby Guelph to watch their team win the Robertson Cup. The rink wasn’t even full of IceDogs’ fans! It’s a joke.
The Majors have never been accepted in Mississauga. Their marketing department is non-existent. They couldn’t promote water during a drought. And now this city of who-the-hell-cares OHL fans gets the honour of a Memorial Cup! Are you kidding me? And, what makes the attendance figures even more disgusting is that head coach Dave Cameron has done a great job of re-building the Majors’ program. This past season, they had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference (behind Barrie). And they will be great again next year.
But, get this. I’m told that Memorial Cup ticket packages will first be offered to Majors’ season-ticket holders. Both of them. Then to Brampton Battalion and Oshawa Generals’ season-ticket holders. What the hell is that? Then the league and corporate sponsors will belly up to the trough. And, I’m told, absolutely no ticket packages will be available for simple purchase by the common fan. None. Zippo.
Barrie has supported their OHL Colts for fifteen years. And, before that, they stuck by teams at various levels in broken-down, old Barrie Arena. Today, Barrie Molson Centre houses the Colts. It’s a perfect venue for the Memorial Cup. And, it has something that Hershey Centre in Mississauga will NEVER have – fans who care about their OHL team!