CALGARY – It’s going to be a long drive home for Lethbridge Hurricanes staff and supporters.
The club fell short in their bid to host the 2020 Memorial Cup Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 3, as the Western Hockey League announced from Calgary that the tournament will be going to the Kelowna Rockets, May 22 to 31, 2020.
“Your initial reaction is disappointment, then, your next reaction is basically… we'll continue to do what we've been doing, and we'll continue to have good teams and competitive teams that have a chance to win on any given night,” said Hurricanes General Manager Peter Anholt, following the announcement.
From the WHL’s perspective, Commissioner Ron Robison said a major part of the decision came down to confidence in the Kelowna Rockets organization.
“Very strong fan base, always a very competitive team, championship calibre team,” stated Robison. “And really, when it comes down to it, when you’re hosting a Memorial Cup… you have to be sure that that team is capable of putting together a championship team. And I think the confidence in [owner, president and general manager Bruce Hamilton] and his leadership on the hockey side was a key consideration.”
When asked about the bid from Lethbridge, Robison chose to focus more on how the club has evolved over recent years.
“Lethbridge has made great strides – in the last four years they’ve turned their hockey program around completely, led by the leadership of Peter Anholt.
“They’re a community owned organization, which is difficult in many ways to mount a bid of this nature,” Robison added. “But you have to give them a lot of credit, they have made great strides – they`ve got an outstanding game-night presentation now and they’re exciting the fans in that community and I think they have a real good future ahead of them.”
Robison then pivoted back to Kelowna, saying their community involvement and reputation for hosting other national and international events helped put the Rockets over the top.
Speaking with Lethbridge News NOW, Anholt said they felt their bid to host the event was very strong but acknowledged that those put forward by Kelowna and their other competitor, the Kamloops Blazers, were quite strong as well.
When asked if this can act as a learning moment for the organization in a future attempt to land the Canadian Hockey League’s national tournament, which was unequivocal in his reply.
“Of course we will, of course we will. We're poised to do it, we've got the facilities to do, we've got the team to do it, and we'll continue to bang at the door until eventually we knock it down,” said Anholt.
“It's a bit of a kick in the stomach right now, but you know what, you pick yourself up and you move forward.”
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