Unfortunately I didn't get to see as much of the Memorial Cup as I would have liked to. Considering I spent three years living in Kitchener - Waterloo, I should have been following the home team a little closer. The memories of their seven game OHL final against Belleville seemed to have been haunting the Rangers through the round robin portion of the tournament but they sure got organized on their day off. The powerhouse the home crowd had been expecting finally emerged when it counted most. Dispatching the Bulls 9-0 in the semi final game certainly sent a message to the home fans - don't count us out yet. But in the end, it wasn't meant to be as Spokane's defense won the day and the Memorial Cup.
One thing that struck me throughout the tournament as some teams racked up the wins and others piled up the losses, is how easy it is to forget these young men are all 16 to 20 years of age. The high level of skills on display was tremendous. All of the teams in the Memorial Cup are champions in their own leagues and should hold their heads high. They should take pride in this seasons accomplishments regardless of their place in the tournament.
During these games, when there is a close up of the bench, you see the excitement and love of hockey in the faces of these young men. When the games are over, the raw emotions that shine through. The joys of winning and the bitter taste of defeat are so real and genuine. It's refreshing in this world of thirty second sound bites.
Some of these young men, at 16, may be experiencing defeat at a professional level for the first time and they will learn from it and work towards next year. The star players may be moving on to the NHL or AHL where new challenges await them. For some players though, at 20, this may have been their last game. Unless they are going on to play university hockey or sign on with a team somewhere in Europe, their days of pro hockey may be over. Tears flowed on both sides of the ice as the Memorial Cup was handed to the Spokane Chiefs and that's one of the great things about junior hockey. Real emotion.
One quick note. Much has been made of the Memorial Cup falling to pieces... my theory? Could it have been the collective heartache of the Kitchener fans unconsciously wishing for it?