Which team will host the 2024 Memorial Cup?

Mar 24, 2023 - 1:00 PM
London Knights - Memorial Cup Champions

Every three years the Ontario Hockey League hosts the Memorial Cup tournament to determine the major junior hockey champions in North America. The Western Hockey League Kamloops Blazers are hosting the 2023 tournament, and the QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads hosted the 2022 tournament.

The 2024 tournament will be the first one hosted by an OHL team since the 2017 where the host team Windsor Spitfires were named champions. The Regina Pats hosted in 2018, an odd year as it was the 100th anniversary of the tournament so all three leagues (OHL, WHL, QMJHL) submitted bids to host. After that the OHL was scheduled to host in 2021 but the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the tournament.

There are conditions for hosting the tournament, but one that is no longer around is the financial guarantee. Teams at one point had to promise to hit a profit target, otherwise the host team/city would be on the hook to make up the difference.

From above:

When Saskatoon hosted the event in 2013 their tournament guarantee fell short, leaving taxpayers on the hook for close to $700,000. Profits fell about $1 million short, so the province had to pay $667,797 with the city of Saskatoon covering the remainder. The Blades had given the CHL a guarantee of $3.5 million to host the tournament at the Credit Union Centre which seats roughly 13,000.

We have four very different markets bidding, there are pluses and minuses unique to each team that makes them stand out, and one thing in common: none of them have hosted the tournament before.

Don’t worry, if you want to skip about 2,000 words there’s a TL;DR at the bottom.

The Bidders

Kingston Frontenacs
Founded: 1945 (Kingston Victorias)
OHL Championships: None
Memorial Cups: None
Arena: Leon’s Centre
Capacity: 5,614

The longest tenured team of the three, Kingston has no championships to its name since joining the OHA/OHL, and have never played in the final round of the playoffs.

Niagara IceDogs
Relocated: 2007
OHL Championships: 0
Memorial Cups: 0
Arena: Meridian Centre
Capacity: 5,580

The IceDogs relocated to St. Catharines in 2007, leaving Mississauga after being kicked out of their arena by the then St. Michaels Majors (now Mississauga Steelheads). They have played for the J. Ross Robertson Cup (OHL Championship) twice in 2016 and 2012, losing both times to the London Knights.

Saginaw Spirit
Relocated: 2002
OHL Championships: 0*
Memorial Cups: 0*
Arena: Dow Event Center
Capacity: 5,527

Since being relocated to Saginaw from North Bay in 2002, the Spirit haven’t reached the OHL Final, but are poised to be a big contender the next couple seasons with exceptional status player Michael Misa headlining the roster.

*The Spirit franchise won an OHL Championship as the North Bay Centennials (1994), and two Memorial Cups as the St. Catharines Tee Pees (1954, 1960).

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Founded: 1962
OHL Championships: 3
Memorial Cups: 1
Arena: GFL Memorial Gardens
Capacity: 4,928

The most decorated of the bidders, the Greyhounds have hosted some of the biggest names in hockey (Wayne Gretzky, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey) and are one of the most iconic teams in the league.

There are several factors that go into choosing a Memorial Cup host; Can the city accommodate an event like this, is the arena good enough, and is the team going to be competitive the season that they’re hosting the tournament? The last one is the most important as the host gets an automatic entry into the tournament, and there have been instances in the past where the host had to withdraw from the tournament due to underperforming in the regular season.

In 1989-90 the OHL’s Dukes of Hamilton were hosting, but withdrew due to a record of 11-49-6. In 1990-91 the Beauport Harfangs in the QMJHL were hosts but missed the playoffs with a record of 26-40-4 and dropped out of the tournament.

This shouldn’t be an issue for three of four teams bidding for the tournament his time around, but one should give the league a lot to think about when considering their bid.

Kingston Frontenacs

Host City Amenities

As a host city, Kingston has one of the most beautiful areas around their arena. Located on the waterfront, surrounded by historical buildings, the Leon’s Centre is a modern showcase of an arena, fits 5,614 hockey fans, and has plenty of parking, hotels, and space for all the necessary Memorial Cup fan fare outside its doors. It’s not located in a farmer’s field, far from the city, but right in the heart of the action.

There are several hotels within walking distance of the arena, giving teams, fans, and others plenty of choices close by.

The Kingston Constantine Arena at the Royal Military College and old Kingston Memorial Centre are nearby for teams to use on off-days for practice.

Public parks and squares dot the core of the city near the arena, so there can be games, concerts, beer gardens, and many other events nearby to entertain fans before and after games.

Case For

The team celebrated their 50th anniversary as a member of the OHA/OHL this season, and in the half century they’ve been around they have never had a sniff of the Memorial Cup. Their best performance was in 2018 when they lost to the eventual OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs in the Eastern Conference Final.

That doesn’t sound like a very good case for, but this sad sack franchise could really use a boost to morale by having the motivation to prove they belong in the upper echelon of junior hockey franchises, even if it means sneaking into the tournament through the back door.

The majority of this team was born in 2005/06 so almost all of them should be back next season. They’ve played together, they know each other well, and the chemistry is there to improve on this years record.

General Manager Kory Cooper has the necessary draft picks and talent to make moves in the off-season/next season to keep the team in shape for the challenge of proving they’re worthy of hosting and playing in the tournament.

Case Against

The first paragraph in the Case For could also go here. The Frontenacs are not a successful franchise. They don’t have a winning past, they’ve never even been close enough to a trophy to know what to do with it. But should a team’s past be held against them like this?

Maybe, since in the amount of time they’ve existed they couldn’t close the deal, not even with an exceptional player like Shane Wright. There’s something about this team that can’t get it done.

The current roster, who will mostly be there next season, haven’t yet secured a playoff spot. The team is currently in 9th place (out of 10) in the OHL’s Eastern Conference one point behind the Oshawa Generals for the final spot in the post-season. A 0.417 points percentage doesn’t scream of a team worthy of the Memorial Cup, but a team that’s a worry about hosting.

Everything about Kingston makes me dream of spending two weeks there at the tournament. Everything but the team.

Niagara IceDogs

Host City Amenities

The IceDogs are named for the region of Niagara, but play in the City of St. Catharines, the largest municipality in the region. The Meridian Centre was built on top of old industrial land and the original Welland Canal in downtown, several stories below the main street leading fans to enter the building on the top floor and walk down to their bowl seats.

The City is willing to shutdown that main street for events, and the Memorial Cup would qualify. This would create a large street party leading to the arena doors every night, with fans gathering outside the many bars and restaurants that line the street. While not as picturesque as Kingston, there’s plenty to do, and plenty of space to host the festivities.

However, while Niagara boasts more hotel options than any of the other hosts, none are located near the arena, meaning lots of cabs and shuttles will be needed. Luckily there shouldn’t be a shortage of volunteers to drive people around as previous events (IIHF Women’s World Juniors, Canada Games) have shown people here love to give away their time to sporting events.

There’s plenty of nearby ice pads for practices, just outside of downtown is a four pad arena so each team can have dedicated space without sharing. All the logistics are taken care of.

Case For

It’s a brand new arena, lots of room to build bigger scouting and media sections, and a hardcore fanbase. We’ve set attendance records for PWHPA events, IIHF events, and have never had an empty venue for any sporting event we’ve hosted. The 2022 Canada Games were a huge success, and even through terrible seasons the Niagara IceDogs have been a top five attendance team in the OHL since moving to their new arena. If we go by capacity % rather than actual seat sales, they’ve been a top team for their entire existence. It’s a hardcore fanbase here, and there’s support to make the tournament a success.

It’s also nice and close to Toronto, making broadcasting easier, and very close to league offices.

Case Against

Then there’s the actual team. It’s a mess. There’s no way anyone could have any serious expectations that this team, the way it’s currently run, could be anything other than a new Dukes of Hamilton for the OHL. Their record this season is a pitiful 12-45-8. A -149 goal differential. They made over 30 trades and had three head coaches. The owner named himself GM, which is never, ever, ever, a good sign, and ran the team while also running TWO OTHER TEAMS. And they all stunk. There is no consistency to anything being done in this franchise, and it’s a small, petty thing, but they don’t even put out food for visiting media & scouts. It’s bush league, Jr C level competence in the Meridian Centre, and the bid for the Memorial Cup is a dog & pony show being done to distract local fans from the disaster on the ice. Maybe if things settle down, they can build something for the next time the OHL hosts the tournament in 2027. Maybe.

Saginaw Spirit

I haven’t been to either the Soo or Saginaw, so I don’t have a hands on, personal view of the final two bidders.

Host City Amenities

Saginaw is trying to become the first American team to host the Memoria Cup since the WHL Spokane Chiefs in 1998. The Dow Event Centre is the oldest arena in the running, but did get a large renovation to welcome the Spirit to town in 2003. It’s located off the highway near the banks of the Saginaw River, in a downtownish area of the city (Sorry Saginawians if I’m wrong). There are parks nearby for events, but no hotels in a nearby location. The nearest practice rink is the Saginaw-Bay Ice Arena on the outskirts of town, but only 15 minutes away.

Case For

A solid roster, headlined by 2022 first overall pick, and most recent exceptional status player, Michael Misa is the biggest factor in the Spirits bid. They’ve been the best team on ice out of these four, currently sitting fourth in the Western Conference, and the only team to sport a winning record. They are what we’d want to see from a team one year away from hosting the tournament. Well run, well respected, everything you’d want.

Case Against


It’s been 25 years since the CHL has let the tournament be played in the United States, and that makes me wonder if they even want it there anymore. There’s more logistical issues than other cities, and does TSN want to deal with the extra work when it comes to broadcasting the tournament outside Canada? It’s also a less than ideal celebration location, though not as remote as the Windsor Spitfires hosting the tournament in a giant parking lot. Looking at this team, the only big downside is the invisible line that runs down the Detroit River.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Host City Amenities

The Soo! A long-time OHL franchise that has been the most successful out of any bidding team. Former Memorial Cup Champions, former OHL Champions, and the best possible alumni game that anyone could put together. GFL Memorial Gardens are near the banks of the St. Marys River on the border with Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. It’s even next to a mall so there’s plenty of space for events, parking, tailgating, whatever your heart desires.

Plenty of hotel space near the arena, restaurants, bars, lots to keep people entertained before and after the game.

Case For

A model junior hockey franchise and city that no one in the OHL has a bad thing to say about. Keeping their team around in the farthest, most isolated city in the league - four hours from the closest team in Sudbury - and making it work so well that people look forward to away games there, there’s not much bad to say about this team. High praise from former players, staff, and media members make the Greyhounds the team to beat in the bidding process. The front office knows what they’re doing on and off the ice and can build a team ready and able to compete for the cup.

Case Against

They couldn’t do it this year, though. The Greyhounds missed the playoffs by a wide margin, double digit wins behind the Owen Sound Attack, and aren’t the youngest team bidding either. Lots of work will need to be done to get this team in shape for next season.

The distance is also another factor to consider. It’s the hardest city to get to, not close to a major city’s airport, not on a major freeway for ease of access, and will be the most expensive host city to travel to. While being so far up north (Edmonton Oil Kings fans are laughing at this) creates a passionate hardcore fanbase, it also factors against them here.

So, who will win the right to host the Memorial Cup in May 2024? Who will get automatic entry into the tournament, sparking the usual debates about the format?

My choices, ranked here:

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Yes, they’re far up north, but it’s a host city that shows what the CHL and junior hockey is about. A small town coming together around the local team. Passionate is the best way to describe Greyhounds fans, and no other city would welcome fans from across North America like they would.

Kingston Frontenacs

I just love visiting Kingston, and no one has a better location for a tournament and two week long party like they do. Location, location, location.

Saginaw Spirit

A lot of OHL commentators are favouring Saginaw, and having a top future NHL prospect in their back pocket helps them a lot. But does it overcome the CHL’s fear of crossing the border?

Niagara IceDogs

Having the tournament in my backyard? I would love it. This franchise though? Has yet to prove they can handle the responsibility of existing, let alone hosting one of the oldest, most prestigious hockey tournaments around.

Who do you want to host the tournament? Would you travel up north? Cross the border?

We’ll find out who gets the nod soon. I hope it’s a fun trip.

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