The Kamloops Blazers are the host squad for the tourney that will crown a Memorial Cup champion for the 103rd time.
The Memorial Cup, one of the most prestigious and coveted trophies in North American sport, has a rich tradition that has shaped the way junior hockey is played in North America, as has been detailed by the Canadian Hockey League website.
The trophy was originally known as the OHA Memorial Cup and was donated by the Ontario Hockey Association in March 1919, in remembrance of the soldiers who served for Canada in the First World War. In 2010, the Memorial Cup was re-dedicated to the memory of all fallen Canadian military personnel.
Initially, the Cup was awarded to the national junior hockey champions of Canada. Later, it came to signify junior A hockey supremacy when, in 1934, junior hockey in Canada was divided into A and B classes.
In 1971, when junior A hockey was divided into major junior and tier II junior A, the Memorial Cup was awarded to the higher category and was given to the major junior hockey champions of Canada.
In 1972, a round-robin tournament format replaced the old playdown system to determine the champions. Since then, the champions of the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have met each spring in a round-robin series, with the two top teams playing off in a sudden-death game to determine the champions.
Between 1972 and 1982, the three league champions met at one locale each year.
In 1983, the format changed with the addition of a host club, making the tourney a four-team affair. That year was also notable for the fact the Memorial Cup became an international trophy as the tournament was held outside Canada for the first time, when the Portland Memorial Coliseum was the host arena.
The hometown Winter Hawks took home the title that year to become the first non-Canadian based team to win the Cup. Portland again hosted the tournament in 1986 and Seattle played host in 1992. In 1991, the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL became the second U.S.-based team to claim the title. The Chiefs won the title again in 2008 in Kitchener.
Since the tournament adopted its current round-robin format in 1972, Western Hockey League teams have won the title 19 times, Ontario Hockey League teams have claimed 17 championships and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams have hoisted the hardware 13 times.
This year’s tourney features three teams with the most appearances in the Memorial Cup since round-robin play began in 1972 — Peterborough, with nine, and Kamloops and Quebec, with seven each.