Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Toronto Also Bids For University Cup

It will be a showdown between the Varsity Reds and Varsity Blues for the right to host the 2017 and 2018 University Cups.

The CIS announced today the schools that bid on a number of future national championships and, perhaps surprisingly, only two schools bid for the 2017 and 2018 men's hockey championships - UNB, which was confirmed yesterday by AD John Richard, and the University of Toronto.

This will be an interesting decision by the CIS. Two of the biggest factors the committee takes into consideration when awarding this championship is the ability to attract large crowds as well as field a competitive team. Based on that criteria the decision would seem to be a no-brainer as the Varsity Reds are annually among the top teams in the country both on the ice and at the box office. The CIS will also undoubtedly take into consideration the fact UNB has hosted 4 highly successful University Cup tournaments since 2003. By contrast, the Varsity Blues are coming off of a fairly typical year based on their recent history as they skated to a 13-13-1 record and 5th place finish in the OUA West division. They played in front of an average of only 386 fans per game last year.

However, what will make this interesting is what the CIS prioritizes. Will they award the tournament to a "sure bet" in UNB, even though they just hosted in 2011 and 2012. They know that placing the tournament in Fredericton is guaranteed to draw huge crowds, which will look good on television, but it would also mean an AUS team would host for four consecutive years with Halifax doing the honours last year and this year so perhaps they might think that is a bit unfair.

We also know the CIS is always looking to grow the game which might make the Varsity Blues bid an intriguing option. Would they take a chance on hosting one of their premier events in Toronto in an effort to give CIS hockey some exposure in the country's biggest market? Toronto hasn't hosted the tournament since finishing up a 10 year run in 1997 so they are certainly more "due" to host it than UNB, but traditionally CIS hockey doesn't receive the support in that part of the country like it does in the Maritimes. Additionally, the Varsity Blues haven't been a national contender in quite some time. There is no doubt Toronto would be a much riskier option for the CIS.

The selection committee will review the bids and the winner will be announced by mid-October. In the meantime, let the debate begin.