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Gaglardi talks team effort, bullish approach to Memorial Cup bid

“No, I don’t think we can,” a smiling Gaglardi said when asked to reveal which other teams made bids for 2023. “We’re just excited. That’s kind of irrelevant now. We’ve got it and off we go. It’s going to be a fun year in Kamloops getting ready for the Cup.”

Tom Gaglardi is not much for hush-hush.

The Kamloops Blazers’ majority owner was outspoken when his team was not awarded hosting rights for the 2020 Memorial Cup and found a way to circumnavigate Canadian Hockey League instructions to keep quiet on bids for the 2023 national major junior hockey championship tournament.

“Oh, I think so,” Gaglardi said when asked if aggression was always part of the public-relations plan.

“For us, it was always about publicly telling a story that the city wants the Memorial Cup. And it’s not just the club, it’s the city and the support from city hall, which, generally, has been unbelievable and really pushed us.”

The storybook ending came on Friday, when CHL president Dan MacKenzie was in town to make it official — Kamloops will host the four-team tournament in 2023.

“Yeah, from the beginning, Kamloops was at the table saying, ‘This is going to be really important for our community,’ and they demonstrated that at every stage of the process,” MacKenzie said.

The centrepiece of the bid is a championship-calibre hockey team led by hometown dynamo Logan Stankoven, the Dallas Stars’ draft pick whose 19-year-old campaign will follow an 18-year-old season in 2021-2022 that leaves him in WHL player-of-the-year territory — 45 goals and 104 points in 59 games.

“I thought we deserved that Cup and it was time,” Gaglardi said when asked about defeat in 2020, when the Kelowna Rockets won the day. “It was our time. But that’s the way it works. You don’t always get your way.

“The difference between today and a couple years ago is the fact we’ve now demonstrated over a period of time that we’ve got a really competitive and exciting team that is capable of winning this thing. Of the cities that were seriously considered, you know, we have a solid team.”

TSN and RDS televise the tournament, which was cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, but will run this year from June 20 to June 29 in Saint John, N.B.

“We are honoured that this prestigious event will be held on Tk̓emlupsemcúl̓ecw,” Tḱemlúps te Secwépemc councillor Dave Manuel said in a press release. “It will be a pleasure to watch world class junior hockey players compete for this championship.”

MacKenzie said three teams were part of the initial intent-to-bid process for 2023. He opted not to reveal the other two.

“We won’t really discuss that, but listen, Kamloops ultimately did a nice job,” he said, noting approval of facilities, City of Kamloops and bid-committee support, accommodation, volunteer base, technical-requirement capabilities and the hockey team.

The Rockets might have seemed to have an inside track on hosting in 2023, with the pandemic having robbed them of their moment in 2020, a pilfering that had an adverse effect on club coffers and impacted strategy for on-ice product.

Blazers’ part-owner Shane Doan broke the 2023 news on Friday to a nearly packed house at Sandman Centre through a video presentation, the announcement made prior to Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

At the same time, the Rockets issued a press release that took aim at GSL Holdings, the group that owns, operates and manages their arena, Prospera Place.

The Rockets and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran have publicly scorned GSL for not ponying up funds to make arena improvements necessary to meet CHL standards to bid to host the Memorial Cup.

Meanwhile, city councillors in Kamloops unanimously approved a maximum budget of $940,000 for upgrades at Sandman Centre, with outgoing Mayor Ken Christian noting improvements to the broadcasting set up are required.

“We were able to come up with that through some of the grant funding, gaming funds and things like that,” Christian said. “It won’t be a draw on the taxpayer, but it will be a big boon for the community.”

MacKenzie projects an economic impact in Kamloops of between $15 million and $20 million.

“This is the countenance of a very happy mayor,” Christian said. “Twenty-eight years since we’ve hosted the Cup [and won in 1995], since we’ve hosted the nation. For Kamloops, in 2023, we’re going to launch from the Scotties [Tournament of Hearts, women’s national curling championship] straight into the Memorial Cup. It’s absolutely great. We’ve got an older building, but it’s a building we’ve really kept up. This is our time. I think this is what we need as we emerge from the pandemic and sort of get us back to being Canada’s Tournament Capital.”

The WHL board of governors, whose chair is Rockets’ owner Bruce Hamilton, voted on hosting rights for 2020. The CHL made the decision for 2023.

“When you think about the year-on-year institutional knowledge you can glean from a process where you’ve got a centralized group of people helping to make the decision, we think it’s the right way to go,” MacKenzie said.

Gaglardi was sour when he piped up in 2020.

“Yeah, it was our turn,” he told KTW. “It should have been ours. It was the wrong thing. The league did the wrong thing.”

The majority owner made it clear in May of 2021 Kelowna would not run unopposed for 2023.

“Just because you have the market size and ability financially to host a Memorial Cup, I don’t think is enough, so if Kelowna is going to want the Cup again in 2023, they’re going to need to have a competitive team, and so we’ll see if they do,” Gaglardi said.

He was bubbly on Friday.

“No, I don’t think we can,” a smiling Gaglardi said when asked to reveal which other teams made bids for 2023. “We’re just excited. That’s kind of irrelevant now. We’ve got it and off we go. It’s going to be a fun year in Kamloops getting ready for the Cup.”

Host organizing committee chair Norm Daley on Friday noted the absence of Don Moores, the late Blazers’ president.

“We’ve done a lot of work to get to this point,” Daley said. “It was something that Don Moores and I talked about ever since the last bid.

“This one is for him. It’s a great day to be a Blazer, as he always said.”