Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2008 Memorial Cup open thread

I'm going to be working on a few Memorial Cup related tidbits over the new few days, as Canadian junior hockey's championship tournament gets underway in Kitchener on Friday.

The entrants
WHL champ: Spokane Chiefs
OHL champ: Kitchener Rangers
QMJHL champ: Gatineau Olympiques
OHL runner-up: Belleville Bulls

Would be glad to hear from anyone that's a fan of one of these teams, or just those out there that are interested in junior hockey.

Spokane went 16-5 in the playoffs, while Kitchener was 16-4, Gatineau was 16-3, and Belleville was 15-6 and lost in the OHL final to the Rangers on Monday.

In the final regular season rankings in the CHL, Kitchener was first, Spokane second, Belleville third and Gatineau ninth.

Schedule Time
Fri. May 16
Gatineau vs. Kitchener
7:00 PM ET
Sat. May 17
Belleville vs. Spokane
4:00 PM ET
Sun. May 18
Kitchener vs. Spokane
4:30 PM ET
Mon. May 19
Belleville vs. Gatineau
7:00 PM ET
Tue. May 20
Spokane vs. Gatineau
7:00 PM ET
Wed. May 21
Kitchener vs. Belleville
7:00 PM ET
Thurs. May 22
Tie Breaker - IF NECESSARY
7:00 PM ET
Fri. May 23
Semi-Final - TBD vs. TBD
7:00 PM ET
Sun. May 25
Championship - TBD vs. TBD
4:30 PM ET

The tournament's going to be broadcast on Sportsnet in its entirety, and as one of the premier hockey events on the calender, it's well worth watching.

To give you an idea of what you can see, I was at the tournament final last year in Vancouver, and Milan Lucic was the star for the hometown Giants en route to a big win. A few months later, he was turning heads in the NHL with Boston.


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At 8:20 a.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Hitmen fan checking in.

I got nothing. My team choked hard a month ago.

At 8:34 a.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger Sean Leahy said...

for those in the US, the NHL Network will be picking up the games starting Friday

At 8:36 a.m., May 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the great storylines of this tournament is the Bellevile Bulls who lost to Kitchener in the OHL Championship. Not only did the Bulls come back from a three game to none deficit to force a game seven, they were down 3-0 at the beginning of the third period in game four. You know that they are going to be hyper-motivated when they play the Rangers.

The kid to watch is Kitchener's Justin Azevedo who won this year's OHL Scoring title--no, it wasn't Tavares or Stamkos--and is still undrafted. He was a victim of the "Too samll, can't compete" mindset that still exists in the old boys hockey network.

At 8:56 a.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger dv said...

Don't know much about the eastern teams, but Spokane looked good (and will be well rested) after sweeping Lethbridge in the WHL Championship. It was doubly impressive considering their Western Division Championship series went 6 or 7 games, and 5 of them went to OT including a double OT.

At 10:04 a.m., May 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That will be nice to see the charismatic habs prospect PK Subban playing for Belleville.

At 10:46 a.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger Dennis Prouse said...

Anyone who underestimates Gatineau does so at their own peril. They were 16-3 in cutting through the QMJHL playoffs like a hot knife through butter. They are getting great goaltending from Ryan Mior, and Claude Giroux has been simply dominant.

The Memorial Cup is an interesting tournament. Every year, some team is going to run into a bad draw and some hard luck, and be 0-2 before they know it. The other given is that the team that gets a bye to the Finals is golden. IIRC, the team that has received the bye to the Finals has won something like 12 out of last 14 Memorial Cups.

At 10:56 a.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

As a fan of the most incompetent junior franchise in the entire country, I have no way of fathoming what "earning" a Memorial Cup birth must be like. When a host team also wins their league championship, that's just crazy.

So here's to hoping that Saskatoon hosts the tourney in 2 years to get back to this tournament once and for all and hopefully cheat out a win with a lucky week.

At 11:17 a.m., May 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a Wings fan I'll be casually following the Belleville Bulls. Jan Mursak will probably move up to Grand Rapids next season and it sounds like he's been doing pretty well for the Bulls.

At 11:26 a.m., May 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to really place predictions since many of us only follow one league closely.

It's hard for me to say who will win, but being a Dub fan, I like Spokane's chances. They beat the defending Memorial Cup Champs in Vancouver, the #1 team in the league in Tri-City and the #2 team in the Eastern Conference in Lethbridge to get here. That would be the teams that finished 5th and 2nd in the CHL top ten repectively, and a Lethbridge team that would have ranked about 11th or 12th.

At 11:49 a.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger kevincrumbs said...

Saskhab, with all due respect, I'm pretty sure my Portland Winter Hawks in their current form are junior hockey's most incompetent franchise.

I didn't get to follow them too much this year as their schedule conflicted heavily with my work schedule and when I did have a chance to see them, I decided I'd rather watch the Habs play on TV.

At 11:56 a.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Saskhab, with all due respect, I'm pretty sure my Portland Winter Hawks in their current form are junior hockey's most incompetent franchise.

No doubt Portland was horrible this year, reminiscient of the 2003-04 edition of the Blades that won 7 games all year, and only 1 in the second half. That team had a draft eligible Mike Green on it and Devin Setoguchi was a rookie, amazingly enough.

Anyways, in over 40 years of existence, the Blades have won their division only 6 times, made it to the WHL Finals only twice (once forcing a Game 7 before Iginla and the Rockets finally buried them), and made one Memorial Cup appearance as the host, losing the final in OT to Swift Current.

Our historic suckage definitely beats out Portland's, who have won 2 Memorial Cups and 2 WHL Championships in just over 30 years.

At 1:27 p.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger Bryon said...

The Rangers are an extremely hard-working club with two world-class lines up front (Azevedo-Spaling-Halischuk, and Duco-Kadri-Boedker) but with the ability to roll 4 lines. They also sport what is probably the strongest set of D in the OHL, but have also been hit with some injuries over the past few games. Out right now are Canadiens-prospect and sniper Yannick Weber, and Penguins-prospect Robert Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo (shoulder) is unlikely to return, while it's likely that Weber (ankle) will.

Goaltending-wise, they also stand up to anyone. They acquired World Junior Steve Mason in January to lead the way, but he had knee surgery a few weeks ago and has been out since. Backup rookie and Blackhawks-prospect Josh Unice took the reins and put up some very strong performances to help them win the OHL. Rumour has it that Mason may be ready to return sometime over the next week, so it will be interesting to see what Pete DeBoer does regarding that.

At 6:57 p.m., May 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sean.

At 7:40 p.m., May 14, 2008, Blogger Valerie said...

As CHL fans in Ottawa we have the good fortune of seeing teams from both the Q and the O - we have seen three of the four teams in this year's tournament.

We will be heading down to Kitchener on Friday and will be cheering for all teams but maybe a bit louder for the 'piques as our local team (since the 67s didn't even get close) and the possible dark horse.

Mostly looking forward to good competitive hockey and a great hockey celebration in Kitchener.

At 8:15 p.m., May 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Our historic suckage definitely beats out Portland's, who have won 2 Memorial Cups and 2 WHL Championships in just over 30 years."

I'll give Saskatoon the historic suckage, but I doubt the Blades have ever had their equipment supplier cut them off for non-payment, had the league order the owner to get the hell out of the hockey operations side, and had the commissioner muse about the possibility of relocating the team, all of which happened in Portland this year.

At 1:05 a.m., May 15, 2008, Blogger sager said...

Six division titles? That's five more than my favourite CHL team, who shall remain nameless even though it's had three nicknames.

At 1:05 a.m., May 15, 2008, Blogger sager said...

Viva Bellevegas!

At 11:57 a.m., May 15, 2008, Blogger savardwalsh said...

How's PK Subban's year been so far? Is he the one carrying this team, or is he just riding along? I was pretty excited when the Habs first drafted him, but haven't checked in on him since then. I guess this'll be my chance to. Saskhab, maybe you can get me up to speed?

At 12:56 p.m., May 15, 2008, Blogger Bryon said...

During the Kitchener/Belleville series, Subban was amazing. He's basically the complete package -- he's got good size, he's fast and he's also pretty tough. One area of concern for him is discipline -- he often gets suckered into taking dumb retaliatory type penalties, but his positive traits far outweigh the negative ones.

The other Habs prospect in that series was Rangers' defenseman Yannick Weber. He's a prototypical offensive defenseman -- great skater, excellent 100 MPH+ shot, and quite creative with the puck. His major drawback is his small stature -- I think he's about 5'10".

At 1:50 p.m., May 15, 2008, Blogger savardwalsh said...

One area of concern for him is discipline -- he often gets suckered into taking dumb retaliatory type penalties

Well he'll fit right in with Koivu et al...

/pessimism starting to sink back in after a nice absence all season

At 9:34 p.m., May 21, 2008, Blogger Richard said...

I've seen enough to know that Spokane is the best team in this tournament. While I am a fan of the Kootenay Ice, I've seen several teams from the U.S. Division this season and Spokane and Tri-City are two peas in a pod. Either would be the best "team" in this tournament.

At 8:59 p.m., May 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GO CHIEFS GO! Die hard Spokane Chiefs fan here......Spokane has had quite a remarkable season. Wow! What a ride it has been and what a playoff series with the Tri-City Americans. It was really too bad that only one team coulc continue on because Tri deserves to be at the Memorial Cup as well. Was one of the best series I have ever seen. Kudos to Kitchener and Belleville as they looked quite impressive in their games against Spokane. Come see a Spokane Chiefs homegame sometime....we regularly sell out our beautiful, state-of-the-art, arena at 10,000 plus screaming fans. Saturday night is Hockey Night in Spokane! Go Chiefs Go! Bring home the Cup boys!!!


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