British Columbia

Kamloops to host Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup in 2023

The Kamloops Blazers are hosting the CHL championship for the first time since 1995, the last time they also managed to hoist up the prestigious junior hockey trophy.

The annual tournament has not come to Blazers' territory since 1995

The Memorial Cup trophy is awarded to the top junior team in the Canadian Hockey League and the annual tournament returns to Kamloops, B.C., next year for the first time in nearly three decades. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The cup is coming back to Kamloops.

The city in British Columbia's Interior has been chosen to host the Canadian Hockey League's (CHL) national championship tournament, also known as the Memorial Cup, in 2023.

The CHL announced the decision Friday. It will be the first time the tournament has been played in Kamloops Blazers' territory since 1995. It was also the last time the local team won Canadian junior hockey's prestigious top prize.

The cup has been cancelled for the last two years because of COVID-19. It is back again from June 20-29, 2022, in Saint John, N.B. and then will come west next season to the city known as Canada's tournament capital.

"We are very excited to bring back the Memorial Cup to Kamloops after an almost 30-year hiatus,'' CHL President Dan MacKenzie said in a statement.

"The Blazers and the City of Kamloops put together a first-class bid and will be outstanding hosts.''

The Kamloops Blazers are a member of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The WHL and the Ontario and Quebec Junior Leagues make up the Canadian Hockey League — the highest level of junior hockey in the country.

In a video posted to his Twitter account, Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said that city council unanimously approved an investment of $940,000 in the Sandman Centre arena where the tournament will be held.

That money, he said, comes from grants and not the taxpayer and will be used to upgrade the arena so the CHL can broadcast the 2023 tournament to a national audience.

The mayor said the event will be an economic boon to the city after COVID compromised consecutive tourism seasons.

"It supports business, it supports our youth, and it supports hockey in Kamloops," said Christian. "This is our time."

Battle of the west

The Blazers are currently battling the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Conference final and, for local fans, it's been a nail-biting series. Both Games 4 and 5 went into overtime and, on Sunday, the Thunderbirds forced a Game 7 after besting Kamloops by one goal.

The best of the west will now face off in the Blazers' barn Tuesday night. It will be the first time Kamloops has played in a Game 7 at home since 1994, when the local team triumphed over Saskatoon in the WHL final.

"It should be an electric night at the Sandman Centre," said Tim O'Donovan, the Blazers' assistant general manager, speaking Monday on Daybreak South.

There were already crowds at the box office Monday morning as Kamloops locals lined up for a chance to catch Game 7 action Tuesday.

O'Donovan hinted that, next year, the Blazers could be back again as cup contenders because at least eight out of 10 of the team's top scorers will still be on the roster.

Leading the pack is team captain, 19-year-old Logan Stankoven, who has put away multiple hat tricks during post-season play and was drafted in 2021 to the Dallas Stars.

It remains to be seen whether Stankoven will stay a Blazer or be called up to the pros before 2023.

Game 7 of the WHL Western Conference Championship Series goes Tuesday, May 31 at 7 p.m. at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops. The winner takes on the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL Championship Series beginning Friday in Edmonton.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bridgette Watson writes and produces for news and current affairs at CBC British Columbia. You can reach her at Bridgette.Watson@cbc.ca or @Beewatz on Twitter.

With files from The Canadian Press and Daybreak South

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