There is always controversy when it comes to the Memorial Cup. Many think a league championship is a good measuring stick for a team, but the Memorial Cup is the final piece of the puzzle for bragging rights to be the Canadian Hockey League champ.
Often it comes with a considerable price.
A host team is responsible for bidding on the Cup tournament in the first place and at a price tag, these days, approaching 4 million dollars. While there is an economic impact with hotels, tickets, food, etc., the local team does host at a huge price. Often they have to load up on players, salvaging youth experience for high-priced talent, which in most cases is “rental status,” meaning they have most players from the trade deadline to the end of the Memorial Cup. This three to four-month window is one where at the end, the team dismantles, losing its “rental players,” it’s 20-year-olds and usually as a glut of 19-year-olds turning 20, of which they are only allowed three come the middle of October.
The same is true for other teams in the Cup, who have spent heavily leading to and day of the trade deadline. In most cases, it’s what is known as a “Cycle” where teams show strong with a glut of players and then fall heavily in the next two to four years following, depending on how far out they have traded draft picks to.
This is why you seldom see a team being a legacy or dynasty in this.
The NHL seemed to have its last dynasty decades ago when they instituted a salary cap to show parity within the league. Because the CHL doesn’t have salaried players, the teams instead use draft picks in trades.
The Cup itself is in a round-robin format with one host team and the leaders of the three leagues in the CHL. Three games per team, facing one another, sets the standings for the Memorial Cup. If two teams are tied, they face off in a tiebreaker, with the winning team advancing to the semifinal. That team will face the top team who has won the most games in the final to be crowned Memorial Cup Champions.
Game one saw host team Kamloops Blazers take a beating 8-3 vs Quebec Remparts. Quebec, the odds on favorite to win the whole thing.
It started ok for Kamloops, with them giving up the first goal but bouncing back to tie the game at the end of one. Quebec stormed ahead with a five-goal outburst in 15 minutes of the second period before Kamloops scored again. The Blazers’ two markers, one in the second and one in the third were matched by the Remparts’ three goals in the third. The Remparts were 1 of 1 on the powerplay, Kamloops 2 for 7, and Quebec outshot the Blazers 33-30
Game two saw Seattle double up the Peterborough Petes 6-3. The Petes opened the scoring just over a minute in and held the lead through the period. Seattle scored just 24 seconds into the second period before the Petes restored the lead fifteen minutes later. Seattle then scored three times, one in the second and two in the third, before the Petes were able to get back on the board. Seattle scored three minutes later and tacked on an empty net goal while shorthanded to win 6-3. Seattle outshot the Petes 40-26 and went 0-2 on the powerplay with one shorthanded goal. The Petes went 1-2 on theirs.
Game three saw Kamloops erupt for seven straight goals in the first and second periods. The Blazers took three in the first period and two early in the second frame when Peterborough changed netminders from Michael Simpson to Liam Sztuska. Two more goals against Liam before Peterborough was able to break the shutout by Avery Hayes on the powerplay. Kamloops piled on three more in the third before Peterborough snagged on with just 23 seconds left in the game. Surprisingly there were no hattricks, and Kmaloops held a 49=30 shot advantage. Kamloops was devastating on the powerplay at 4 of 7 versus 1 for 4 for the Petes.
With that loss, Peterborough was in dire straits of being eliminated from the tournament.
Game four saw the match many anticipated between Quebec and Seattle. Quebec opened the score less than a minute into the game. The score held until the third period when Theo Rochette notched his second of the night. Seattle pulled Thomas Milich and was able to get a goal from Nolan Allan to bring the Thunderbirds within one; Charle Truchon fired from behind his netminder blue line into the empty net to seal the win for Quebec 3-1. Seattle outshot Quebec 36-22, and both teams were unsuccessful on their powerplays, Seattle 0-2, Quebec 0-3.
Quebec’s win launched them to the final.
The Remparts face off then versus Peterborough Petes, who looked to gain a win and stay alive in the tournament. The Petes and Remparts went scoreless in the first period. The action heated up in the second period, with only one goal scored in the frame. The Petes picked up a pair midway through the second before trading goals, with the Remparts and Quebec scoring last in the second period to have the Petes up by one heading to the third. It was midway through that period when the Petes scored again and took the game 4-2. Peterborough outshot Quebec 36-28, and both teams went scoreless on the powerplay, with the Petes having three chances and Quebec no chances.
The win allowed Peterborough to stay alive and face the loser of the Kamloops vs. Seattle game to place in the semifinal versus the winner of the game. Quebec has never beaten a team from the OHL in all Memorial Cup games.
Seattle then faced Kamloops to end the round-robin portion. Lucas Ciona opened the scoring for Seattle just over four minutes in, and Kamloops battled back to tie the game just past the midway point of the first period. Seattle then went on a tear with five unanswered goals and a 6-1 win. Matthew Kieper, who hadn’t played at Memorial Cup, played the last 1:50 in net for Kamloops, where he faced no shots. Seattle outshot Kamloops 42-31, and Seattle went 1-2 on the powerplay, Kamloops 0-3. With that, Kamloops Blazers exit the tournament.
Seattle would then face Peterborough for the right to face Quebec in the finals. The game was tight, as expected, with no scoring in the first period.
The Thunderbirds would break the ice late in the second period and add one early in the third. Peterborough would answer a minute later to halve the score. Near the midway mark of the third period, Seatle scored again to lead 3-1. Peterborough pulled their netminder with just over 2 1/2 minutes to go, and Seattle capitalized just eight seconds later with an empty net tally to win 4-1. Seattle piled 47 shots to just 28 for Peterborough, and both teams were blanked with the extra man. Seattle with 3 tries and Peterborough didn’t get on the board.
With that, the stage was set for the best in the west vs. the beast from the east, with the winner crowned as Memorial Cup champions.
Quebec Remparts versus Seattle Thunderbirds for all the marbles. Quebec opened with a goal six minutes in and held that lead through the period. The Remparts scored again nearly nine minutes into the second frame to start to tighten the noose around the Thunderbirds’ neck. Quebec then took the wind from the sails of Seattle with a shorthanded goal and followed it up with a powerplay goal and a regular strength goal to shut out the Thunderbirds 5-0 and claim the Memorial Cup. It was interesting that Scott Ratzlaff did not play even when the Remparts’ victory was not in doubt. Quebec outshot Seattle 35-32 and was 1 for 6 on the powerplay with one shorthanded goal. Seattle was banked on two chances.
Now comes the demolition. Seattle has 11 players currently on its roster, 19 years old, and they can only retain three as they turn 20. Granted, several NHL-caliber players will transfer to the AHL, but the cuts will be massive. They still will have seven players who will be 19 years of age, so they still have a presence, but beneath that, the team gets much lighter. It will be interesting to see if they want to trade off players for the future, as they exhausted most of their draft selections.
The NHL Draft with Round 1 will begin Wednesday, June 28, and rounds 2 through 7 will be on Thursday, June 29, 2023. The first date is all interviews, pomp and circumstance, so it takes a while. The other rounds move quickly as there aren’t interviews and long-drawn-out presentations. Expected to go number 1 is Connor Bedard, who was at the Memorial Cup watching the games. Currently, Chicago is the worst seed and has a 25% chance of landing him in the draft lottery.