CHL Cancels 2020 Memorial Cup

Not sure how this one got by me, and no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. The Canadian Hockey League announced on March 27 (last Friday) that they have canceled the 2020 Memorial Cup due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes on the heels of the three regional leagues that make up the CHL (the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) canceling the rest of their seasons and playoffs.

CHL President Dan MacKenzie, in a message on the league’s website, said that “eight months ago when [he] stepped into [the] role [he] was excited to be a part of one of hockey’s greatest traditions in Kelowna [set to be the site of the 2020 Memorial Cup] when [he] would have the opportunity to present the Memorial Cup to our league’s best for the 102nd straight year.”

This is a true shame as, like MacKenzie mentioned, the Memorial Cup had been awarded for 102 years uninterrupted. Even the Stanley Cup cannot say that.

But realistically, this had to happen. There were to be no playoffs to rightly determine the league champions and fighting the virus is way more important than hockey right now. You do not want to put any fans, players, officials or others in danger by continuing to play a game for the sake of playing a game.

MacKenzie even said as much in his message on the CHL site. He did apologize to the players who were finishing their junior careers for not getting an opportunity to go out in a good way. But, as he said: “I wish those graduating the best of luck in your next chapters, whether they be in professional hockey or academic fields, that the skills you developed both on and off the ice serve you well in your future pursuits.”

It is important to remember that many players in the CHL do not go on to play pro hockey. Many move on to college and then to normal, everyday lives.

But, again, while it would have been nice for them to get a nice sendoff (be it winning the Memorial Cup or just ending the season with their teams) life is more important than hockey and I am sure that everyone involved – despite all of the hard work that they put in – understands.

Finns Win Gold at Worlds; Huskies Claim Memorial Cup

A day before the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins get it on in game one of the Stanley Cup Final, the hockey world was focused on Bratislava, Slovakia for the final of the IIHF World Championship and the final of the Memoria Cup in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The gold medal game for the World Championship ended in an upset as Finland defeated Canada 3-1 to claim the gold. It was the second time Finland claimed victory over Canada in this tournament.

The first prime scoring chance of the game went to the Finns as, at 5:28 of the first period, Canada’s Thomas Chabot was called for a trip and Finland was awarded a penalty shot. They did not convert on Canadian goaltender Matt Murray.

The Canadians then took the lead about five minutes later, at 10:02, when Shea Theodore scored what would be Canada’s lone goal from Anthony Mantha and Jared McCann. The Canadians took that lead into the second period.

Early in the second, the tide began to turn. Theodore took a tripping penalty 2:15 in and Finland’s Marko Anttila scored on the power play. That tied the game up at one which is where we would be when the third period came around.

In the third, it only took Anttila 2:35 to score what would go down as the game winner as he notched his second of the night. Harri Pesonen added an insurance goal at 15:54 to make it 3-1.

Canada would pull Murray for the extra attacker, but to no avail. They could not get things tied and Finland went on to claim gold. Canada wins the silver and the Russians claimed bronze by beating the Czechs 3-2 in a shootout.

Murray made 19 stops on 22 Finnish shots while Kevin Lankinen turned aside 43 of 44 Canadian shots in a great effort. Kaapo Kakko had one shot on net and was an even plus/minus in 11:58 of playing time over 21 shifts. For Canada, Damon Severson had two shots on net and a minus-1 plus/minus in 20:13 of ice time spread over 24 shifts.

So, while Finland was celebrating across the pond, in Nova Scotia, the Halifax Mooseheads and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies were meeting once again. This time it was to decide the 2019 Memorial Cup championship.

They met in the QMJHL Final, in the round-robin of the Memorial Cup and again here. Unfortunately for the Mooseheads, it was the same result. Rouyn-Noranda won the game 4-2 to claim the Memorial Cup.

Halifax, playing on home ice, took a 2-0 lead when Samuel Asselin scored late in the first period on the power play. Raphael Lavoie then scored 5:26 into the second to give the Mooseheads a 2-0 lead.

But from there, the Huskies took over, scoring four straight to claim the win.

Felix Bibeau scored at 10:27 of the second period to cut the lead to 2-1. Joel Teasdale, who would go on to be named the winner of the Stafford Smythe trophy as Memorial Cup MVP, tied it at 15:11 for Rouyn-Noranda.

The fate of both teams would change in a span of two minutes and one second in the third period. The Huskies’ Peter Abbandonato scored the game winner 3:02 into the third frame and then, at 5:03, Vincent Marleau scored to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

And that was the final. Rafael Harvey-Pinard, the captain of the Huskies, who would accept the Memorial Cup later on in the night, was named the game’s first star. The Mooseheads’ Lavoie was the second star while Justin Bergeron of Rouyn-Noranda was the third star.

In goal, Samuel Harvey made 23 saves on 25 shots against for the Huskies while Halifax’s Alexis Gravel turned aside 31 shots on 35 total for Rouyn-Noranda. Jocktan Chainey, in a losing effort, was a minus-1 plus/minus on the night for Halifax.

So, as we head off into the offseason, with the NHL now taking sole place on center stage, congratulations to Finland and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (who had a historic season in the QMJHL) on their championships and here’s to next season for all involved!