Wildcats withdraw bid to host Memorial Cup
The Moncton Wildcats are no longer in the running to host the 2015 Memorial Cup.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club announced yesterday that it has withdrawn its bid to stage the national championship tournament at the Moncton Coliseum. The city, which owns the building, is at the centre of a dispute that led to this surprising turn of events.
“Before we submitted our bid for the Memorial Cup to the league, I called the mayor and asked him if the city would supply the proper air makeup system so that we could have the tournament in the building in May,” said Wildcats owner Robert Irving. “He said he would check and get back to me.
“From that, the mayor came back and assured me the city would put in the right air makeup system. I definitely had a verbal commitment from him. Now, the city has come back and said they won’t do that. The hockey team doesn’t own the building so for us to put in the air makeup system just doesn’t make any sense.”
Moncton, 9-12-0-1, is fourth in the Maritime Division and tied for 13th overall in the 18-team QMJHL. It will face the Saint John Sea Dogs tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Moncton Coliseum.
“Robert Irving advised me some time ago that the Wildcats wanted to pursue the 2015 Memorial Cup,” said Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc. “Naturally, I was very happy to support the initiative. Mr. Irving and the Wildcats have contributed a lot to our community over many years and we were excited about the possibility of hosting another Memorial Cup in Moncton.
“We knew there were technical issues with the Moncton Coliseum’s air quality system, but it turned out to be much more challenging and expensive than first thought. There was a misunderstanding from the start regarding the air conditioning requirements for the Memorial Cup.”
There were plenty of complaints when the 2006 Memorial Cup was held at the Moncton Coliseum. The building was extremely hot with high humidity during that tournament in late May and the sweat box environment made it uncomfortable for fans.
The Canadian Hockey League adopted a new rule after that whereby any place that hosts the Memorial Cup must have air conditioning in the building. The CHL is the umbrella over the QMJHL, Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League.
The city had budgeted $350,000 for a dehumidification system for the Moncton Coliseum. LeBlanc was under the impression that would meet the air quality requirements for the Memorial Cup.
“`I told Mr. Irving that subject to council approval we had money in the budget to address the air quality issues and everything seemed to be good,” said LeBlanc. “Since then, it’s come to light that the Memorial Cup has very stringent air quality standards and the cost to meet these standards in the Moncton Coliseum would be very high.
“We had numbers in the range of $2 million (to install a proper air conditioning system). I couldn’t support spending that kind of money, nor would council have supported it. It was pretty clear that we wouldn’t be able to approve that kind of expenditure for this event. We’re all very disappointed by this and I want to apologize to the Wildcats organization and their fans for any misunderstanding.”
Moncton, the Quebec Remparts and Chicoutimi Sagueneens announced on Sept. 30 that they were submitting a bid to host the 2015 Memorial Cup. Irving insists the Wildcats never would’ve thrown their hat into the ring without a promise from the city to put air conditioning in the Moncton Coliseum.
“Anybody who’s attended a game in this building during the late spring or early fall knows that the heat is unbearable,” he said. “You can’t hold a tournament the magnitude of the Memorial Cup without the right air makeup system in the building.
“We were in the planning stage to put together a competitive bid that we felt would give us a fair chance to land this event. Knowing the standards the league has set for rink conditions, we’re not able to have a competitive bid without the right air makeup system.”
Irving is clearly upset that the Wildcats have been forced to pull their bid for the 2015 Memorial Cup.
“I’m very disappointed by the way this was handled,” he said. “I feel bad for our fans and for our team that we won’t be proceeding with our bid. You base your decisions on what people tell you and that’s what we did here.
“I know it’s tough to hold the Memorial Cup in the building we have today in our city. We have to be realistic and that’s why I reached out to the mayor before I went down that road to submit a bid. I wanted assurance that the city would supply the proper air makeup system.”
LeBlanc points out that Moncton will host four games in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a soccer tournament that runs from June 6 until July 5. The event is taking place in six cities across Canada.
“The FIFA Women’s World Cup will be taking place within weeks of the Memorial Cup,” he said. “That raised issues of competing resources for the two events. With all these developments, it was clear that we couldn’t put enough money into the budget.”
The Wildcats owner scoffed at the mayor’s suggestion that it could be tough for Moncton to host the Memorial Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup within a few weeks of each other.
“That doesn’t enter into the equation at all,” said Irving. “That has nothing to do with it.”
Times & Transcript
■ The Wildcats will battle the Halifax Mooseheads on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Halifax Metro Centre in a game that’s nationally televised on Rogers Sportsnet. The Wildcats Booster Club is sending a fan bus to this contest. For information, contact Anne Necomb-Thibodeau at 227-8880.