May 28, 2018
by Gregg Dreenan
It is time for hockey fans and the media alike to come to the realization, if they haven’t already, that events like the Memorial Cup and Royal Bank Cup don’t decide national championships.
They are entertainment vehicles and social gatherings and nothing more, and should be enjoyed as such.
They also are showcases for the players who are fortunate enough to get to participate in the tournaments. Fans also are guaranteed to see some of the best teams in major junior and junior A hockey, so the games mostly are competitive and, as such, entertaining.
But so long as the formats include host teams and round-robin play, these events don’t culminate with the crowning of national champions.
The 2018 Memorial Cup, the 100th anniversary of the trophy, was played in Regina over the past few days. It concluded Sunday with the QMJHL-champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan beat the host Pats, 3-0.
To reach the final, the Pats, who had lost out in the first round of the WHL playoffs, eliminated two league champions — the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Pats didn’t have it on Sunday and were beaten by a superior team in the Titan.
After losing to the Pats in the final game of the round-robin and falling to 0-3, the Broncos talked of injuries and fatigue, their 26-game run to the Ed Chynoweth Cup apparently having taking a toll.
But are the Pats the better team because they won one particular game in a round-robin tournament?
Regina and Swift Current met six times in the regular season — the Broncos were 5-0-1, the Pats were 1-4-1. The Broncos wound up at 48-17-7, while the Pats finished 40-25-7.
In the playoffs, the Broncos took out the Pats in a first-round series that went seven games.
In 14 meetings between the teams this season, then, the Broncos were 9-4-1.
But on one night in May, the Pats won, 6-5. Does that mean Regina was the better team? No. It means that on any given day . . .
Meanwhile, in the world of junior A hockey, the host Chilliwack Chiefs won the Royal Bank Cup, which is a five-team tournament. Does that mean the Chiefs won the national championship and are junior A’s best team?
Consider that they finished the BCHL’s regular season at 15-38-1, with four ties. That left them fourth in the Mainland Division, 39 points out of first place. They then lost a seven-game first-round series to the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Meanwhile, the Wenatchee Wild was 37-16-4, with one tie, and third in the Interior Division, seven points out of first place. The Wild then went 16-4 to win the BCHL playoff championship. Wenatchee followed that with a five game Doyle Cup victory over the AJHL-champion Spruce Grove Saints.
At the RBC, Wenatchee won its four round-robin games, two in OT, including a 2-1 victory over Chilliwack. The Chiefs won three times, once in OT, and had the one OT loss.
During the round-robin, the Wild beat the Wellington Dukes, 7-1. But in a semifinal game, the Dukes posted a 2-1 victory, despite having been outshot 51-14.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, beat the Ottawa Jr. Senators, 3-2, in the other semifinal, then doubled the Dukes, 4-2, in the final.
Does all of this mean that Chilliwack is a better team than Wenatchee. No. It means that during one week in May things went the Chiefs’ way, just like things didn’t go Swift Current’s way the following week.
So, as long as there are host teams and round-robin formats, let’s stop concerning ourselves with national championships and just enjoy the proceedings.
For more by Gregg Drennan see, greggdrinnan.blogspot.ca