Hearing the little rich kid talking about his last-place team some day hosting a Memorial Cup is a little rich.
Poor Doug Springer. Here he is, tryin' to throw what's left of the Kingston Frontenacs fanbase a friggin' bone, he goes and gets the OHL All-Star Game for next February, and still people are cynical. God forbid they would be upon hearing that getting the all-star game makes getting the Memorial Cup likely, when that tends to rests more on a team's competitiveness than the opulence of their arena, as the Fronts found out once before. Seeing Springer trumpet this aggravates the accumulated frustration of the last 11 seasons and makes people all tense in the chestal region.
Damn that David Branch. Why did he have to play his consummate politician's role with platitudinous remarks such as, "Undoubtedly when you host an event like this, it only serves to enhance opportunities for going forward for other special events ... when teams held the all-star game or one of our Canada-Russia games, I think it held them in good stead when it came to successful bids (for the Memorial Cup)."
There is no begrudging David Branch for what he said. He's a politician. It's more of a fevered dream to imagine him getting his Dean Wormer on and putting the Frontenacs on double-secret probation instead of talking about them hosting a Memorial Cup.
Point being, people in K-town are right to scoff when they read or hear the Frontenacs owner saying, "We're thrilled the commissioner is looking at it that way. It's all possible because we have what we believe is the best facility in the Ontario Hockey League." The Frontenacs highers-up should maybe try to worry about winning a playoff series this century before they start bidding to host the Canadian Hockey League's championship tournament.Kingston always has had a good capacity for farce (March 7, 2007)
To sum up, the Frontenacs are hoping they will be competitive enough to host the Memorial Cup by 2014 (Windsor is a lock to get the tournament in 2011). Sure, and the Deltas in Animal House were hoping their midterm grades would really boost their average:
It's not that the hardy souls who have hung in through thin, thinner and Springer won't go to the OHL All-Star Game. There is nothing wrong with having the event; the complaints are more about the owner's perceived attitude.
It's by most accounts a decent enough event. It could also be a huge love-in for Kingston native Taylor Hall prior to the 2010 NHL draft, since his Windsor Spitfires team typically makes only one Eastern swing a year, usually during the first half of this season. There could be some fun, fan-friendly events with the players on the outdoor rink at, wait for it, Springer Market Square in downtown Kingston. The CHL Top Prospects Game is probably a sweeter plum, since outside the junior hockey diehards who have a Shea Kewin replica jersey, there's a better chance statistically of getting 40 players you'd want to see from the 60 CHL teams than the 20 in the OHL.
The Kingston area, for all the complaining about the K-Rock Centre's location and the total lack of attention of detail during its construction (the home team bench isn't connected to the dressing room, so if a player has an equipment problem, the trainer can't leave the bench until play is stopped, for instance), has come a long way in a short time in terms of hockey facilities. The Kingston Kimco Voyageurs, who play at the Invista Centre, are talking about hosting either a regional or national Junior A championship. The Clarkson Cup, the Canadian women's championship, was held at the K-Rock Centre in April. Neighbouring Napanee's less than five-year-old Strathcona Paper Centre was the site of last fall's national under-18 women's hockey championship and will be for the 2010 Ontario Tankard for men's curling.
There are a lot of hockey events out there which would probably work well in Kingston, such as the World Under-17 Challenge, the Telus Cup (Canadian midget championship) and perhaps an IIHF Women's World Championship, given that public enthusiasm for buying tickets to women's hockey might be on the wane. People shouldn't look down on bringing in any of those events. (Granted, it's not perfect, since Queen's has no campus arena and summer-sport athletes are somewhat SOL due to the lack of a proper outdoor running track. Kingston's high school track and field championships had to be held in Belleville).
By that token, though, at some point Springer has to figure out that he has stop trying to put a Mercedes-Benz façade on a broken-down beater. Trading off Doug Gilmour's celebrity as coach while retaining The Royal Mavesty (Rhymes With...) as general manager smacks of this. The same goes for getting the all-star game and talking about the Memorial Cup after a 50-loss season. Granted, after seeing talk that Kingston would likely stand a shot at hosting, "Well, 2014 is when Larry Mavety's 17-year plan should really kick in."
Springer isn't going anywhere. The best to hope for is attitude adjustment in the front office. The Frontenacs are in a Bill Wirtz scenario and are crying out for a Rocky Wirtz, who made over the Chicago Blackhawks after his dad died. It is possible for someone to go from a bad owner to a good owner. George Steinbrenner had that metamorphosis. Mark Cuban is headed in that direction.
Until that happens in Kingston, though, people are right to be cynics about anything coming from the Frontenacs. Right now, Doug Springer could find a way to make cars run on consommé and people would still turn up their noses.
Remember that Simpsons episode where some rich Germans buy the nuclear power plant?
"We regret to announce the following employee layoffs, which I will read in alphabetical order: Simpson, Homer. That is all."
That's what happened to your truly's hometown of Kingston, Ontario yesterday. If you watched the Canadian cable sports networks last night, you might have seen a junior hockey item on the ticker:
"London Knights, Kitchener Rangers, Oshawa Generals, Saginaw Spirit and Sarnia Sting approved to make bids for the 2008 Memorial Cup."
Kingston's bid got the boot and everyone else got approved. This is like getting an envelope with Ed McMahon's picture on it and a message, NOT EVEN CLOSE!
Kitchener and London have hosted the last two Memorial Cups played in OHL cities and those cities' bids were approved. Saginaw, Mich., got into the bidding late and may be doing this as a test run for a serious bid in 2011 (the OHL would love to take the tournament to a U.S. market), and it got approved. Kingston gets zero, zip, nada, bupkes. Oh, well, there's always the Kingston Canadian Film Festival!It has been 779 days since Doug Springer promised he would do "whatever it takes" to bring a winner to Kingston. At least there would be at least three winning teams coming in from out of town if by some miracle they got the Memorial Cup!
Whatever the how and why, this is a pretty good piss-take on a town which does have a pretty good capacity for farce. It is weird how Kingston sold more than 5,000 deposits on ticket packages and Saginaw didn't sell any, but that kind of political wrangling is beside the point.
Kingston hockey fans, though, can take quite a bit -- there was that 28-game losing streak back in '87-88 -- and life will go on. There are worse things than living in a city whose sporting clas has a good capacity for farce, and if you can laugh at it, it only makes you stronger.
As for the opponents of the downtown arena who claimed it would not be an economic engine, well, everyone who put down a deposit on the 2008 bid will soon have an extra 25 bucks in their pocket. Take that.