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Saturday, May 18, 2013

A MEMORIAL CUP BLOG

The Place Is Still Majestic
The Saskatoon Blades opened the 2013 Memorial Cup with a 3-2 loss to the London Knights Friday night at Credit Union Centre. Here are some notes:

- I did my best to warn Saskatoon of this all week on the radio.  I really, truly did.   Despite the *impressive* attendance of 10,023 at Game 1, the Bridge City is getting ripped from coast-to-coast for the 5,000 empty seats and the deflated crowd. More on that later.  

- Veteran coach Curtis Hunt and I left Regina around noon bound for Saskatoon. We made a pit-stop for gas in Hanley, SK and were chastised by the gas station owner, Marcus, for having Regina Pats logos on my vehicle. Turns out he's originally from P.A. and went to Carlton Comp with Huntsy in the 1980s. You've gotta love Saskatchewan.  

- We arrived at CUC a little before 3:00 and the arena officials, volunteers and CHL folk couldn't have been more accomodating when it came to getting our accreditation and finding our broadcast location for the SportsCage. Special thanks to Corey Wolfe and Steve Chisholm.  

It's situated between the Sportsnet and Shaw broadcast set-up, 10 feet from the teams' laundry facilities. Perfect! We're all quite comfortable with being out-of-the-way, yet we have a big screen TV and leather couches.  

- Within an hour of arriving, someone stole my complimentary 2013 Memorial Cup briefcase. I hope the guy enjoys it.  

- IT WAS GREAT TO BE BACK IN THE RINK!! And before we went on air it was great to visit with old media and WHL pals like Dave Hunchak, Drew Wilson, Dave Thomas, Les Lazurak, Sam Cosentino, RJ Broadhead, Darren Zary, Paul Krotz, Wray Morrison, Linda Walker and the like.  

- The opening ceremonies and opening faceoff occurred while we were still on the air but when Saskatoon scored early to make it 1-0, there was a thunderous roar which seeped its way under the stands to where we were situated. We couldn't wait to get out there!  

- We didn't time it too well. After taking our broadcast gear back out to the Titan Auto SportsCage Cruiser, we went back in and were awash in a sea of humanity on the concourses. It seemed like many more than 10,000 people were there.  

- For the final two periods Phil Andrews and I sat up in the temporary media section near Loubardias and Remple, and were joined by Global Saskatoon's Taylor Shire. New Lethbridge Hurricanes GM Brad Robson was seated nearby.  

- Honestly, the crowd looked a lot better from where we were sitting but truthfully, it looked dreadful on TV. All the empty seats in the lower bowl made it look like a Wednesday night WHL game on Shaw.  

- Now, the arena looked magnificent on Sportsnet BEFORE the game when it was empty. Heck, it has a bigger capacity than Winnipeg's MTS Centre, home of the Jets!  

- Again, I said it all week and fortunately we didn't catch much flak, but the nation is watching and Saskatoon didn't come off real well if it wants a CFL, NHL or even an AHL team.   That's JUST what the national media is saying on Twitter. Read it for yourself.

- Some are even blasting the cleanliness of the arena but I think that's just being petty and taking it a little too far.

- Attendance figures aside, the crowd was indeed dead too.  There didn't seem to be much energy for the Blades to feed off of.  "Go Blades Go"?  Forget it.

- Seeding time, long weekend, cabin country, the location of the arena, blah, blah, blah. They're all excuses.

- It's the SUPER BOWL OF JUNIOR HOCKEY!!  Actually, the World Juniors are probably the Super Bowl so this more like the Grey Cup, but you get the point.

- Wow, I've called them both on radio.  How cool is that?

- The fact the Blades lost certainly won't help momentum either. They played well in spurts, and showed they belong, but they refuse to play 60 minutes. The powerplays were 5-2 London, I believe, and while that was a little lopsided, the Blades weren't real disciplined in their game nor staying out of the box.   That's a tragedy.  

- Anyways we're back in Regina for the weekend and will be watching Portland-Halifax tonight on Sportsnet. It's the marquee game.  

- I'm interested to know your thoughts on the analysis from the Sportsnet panel of Kypreos and Cox. In the US, the networks were criticized during March Madness for having NBA analysts breakdown and cover the NCAA games. It's the same with hockey in Canada, with NHL analysts being used for CHL games.  

- There will be no further mention of the "Mem Cup".  Athough it's popular junior hockey slang (sort of like 'Dub' for WHL or 'World J's' for World Junior), many veteran hockey observers and Armed Forces personnel say it's an insult to Canadian soldiers.  I'm 50/50 on it, but because our respect for the Canadian military, that term dies now.

- I read somewhere on Twitter that London, ON gets the 2014 Memorial Cup.  That's quite the run of Cup appearances for the Knights.

That's all. Have a great long weekend! There will be no MMG.  

RP