Windsor Spitfires bid on 2011 Memorial Cup



TORONTO — An "arms-length" selection committee now has to sift through all the details it heard today from the four Ontario Hockey League teams - including the Windsor Spitfires - competing to host the 2011 Memorial Cup.

At a news conference held immediately after the final team, the Kingston Frontenacs, made its presentation, Gord Kirke, the committee's legal counsel, said the "key factors" the committee will look at from each bid are: the quality of next year's team, the facilities (the arena, dressing rooms, practice facilities), the ability to fill the arena with fans and keep them entertained, and meeting all the financial requirements.

"I think it's a very difficult task," deciding on which bid is best, "because there are these various factors to take into consideration," said Kirke, who is a non-voting member of the committee. "I think it would depend on each individual member of the committee what weight they'd assign to each of these factors."

The committee members are: Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston; former NHL executive Frank Bonello; NHL vice president Jim Gregory; and the NHL's director of central scouting E.J. McGuire. An announcement on the winner will be made the week of May 3, so the winning team can jet to Brandon, Man., to see how it's hosting the 2010 Memorial Cup May 14 to 23.

The day started with the Barrie Colts, followed by Windsor, then the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, followed by Kingston.

Dave Branch, commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League, said if there's one factor that weighs more than any other it's the quality of the team. The host team gets automatic entry into the four-team tournament, so the OHL wants to ensure it performs well.

"That is so critical," said Branch.

The last time Windsor hosted the cup was 1981, and has never bid to host since the new selection process came into play in 1996, largely because its old arena, The Barn, was inadequate. The new $71-million WFCU Centre, and other factors such as a Memorial Cup winning team and a near-sellout season, now puts the team in the position to host the tournament.

Emerging from their one-hour closed-door pitch this morning, the Spitfires' owners and Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said they "drilled down" all the reasons Windsor should be picked to host the 2011 Memorial Cup.

"We're excited to have it over and as well we're anxious to find out ... what their decision will be," said team governor Pete Dobrich, speaking on behalf of himself and fellow owners Warren Rychel and Bob Boughner.

Francis said what makes Windsor's bid unique is the high level of passion in the community for the event.

"There is no value that can be placed on being able to secure the 2011 Mastercard Memorial Cup," the mayor said.

The Spitfires' room was set up for a mutli-media presentation, complemented by such visual attractions as blowups of Windsor Star front pages from last year's successful Memorial Cup run, as well as the giant hockey jersey signed by thousands of Spitfire fans.

When Barrie Colts president Howie Campbell left his team's presentation, he told reporters: "Our bid was right on."

It includes a minimum guarantee to the Ontario Hockey League (he wouldn't disclose the amount), numerous outside-the-rink events for players and fans, and a "hockey village" for players at the nearby Horseshoe Valley resort, where all the teams will stay and play.

Each team had 45 minutes to make a presentation, followed by 15 minutes of questions.

Kirke said based on the presentations, any of the teams could host the 10-day event which draws more than $10-million in economic benefits.

"I think the quality was as good as I've ever seen it."

The Spitfires open their Western Conference Ontario Hockey League final against the Kitchener Rangers on Thursday at the WFCU Centre.

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