Warm weather tough on ice at Memorial Cup
Fog, plus chippy and rutted surface already a problem
By John MacKinnon, edmontonjournal.com
May 22, 2012
Edmonton Oil Kings Henrik Samuelsson falls over Shawinigan Cataractes Loik Poudrier during third period action at the Memorial Cup Friday, May 18, 2012 in Shawinigan Que.
Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS, Jacques Boissinot , edmontonjournal.com
SHAWINIGAN, Que. – Summer is blazing along the St. Maurice River, and it has brought boaters, sunbathers, roller bladers and other sun worshippers out in full force.
Unfortunately, the spectacular weather — the temperature reached 31.5 Celsius — hasn’t done much for the quality of the ice at the Centre Bionest, site of the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
A number of coaches have complained about the poor quality of the ice surface during the tournament, including Edmonton Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal.
By the end of Sunday’s game, a 6-2 drubbing of the London Knights by the host Shawinigan Cataractes, a low-level fog had crept over the ice, which made for some moody, arty photos, no doubt.
But it’s a bad sign when the ice surface is foggy, let’s face it. It has also been chippy and rutted by the end of games.
On Monday, Mike Craig, son of NHL ice-making wizard Dan Craig, set about trying to correct the situation.
For starters, he had people seal all the exits from the auditorium to the concourses with plastic sheeting, so that the whole place resembled the frozen foods section at some supermarkets.
Why all the fuss?
Two days after he was fired for an inappropriate gesture at the end of his version of O Canada on Friday night, singer Jean-Francois Bastien was heard from. He was unapologetic and a bit puzzled about all the hubbub he caused.
Bastien wore a T-shirt under his sport coat that was emblazoned with the words: “Sorry, Kyoto” and “Harper.”
Memorial Cup organizers promptly dismissed Bastien, who had been scheduled to perform at the Festival des Fans street concert downtown on Sunday night.
“We’re not in China,” Bastien told Le Nouvelliste, the Trois-Rivieres newspaper. “I didn’t do any harm to anyone. I made this political gesture with respect for the organizers.”
Bastien flashed the fans in the stands so they could see his message, which was not seen on the TV broadcasts of the tournament-opening game between the Oil Kings and Cataractes.
Still, tempest in a teapot or not, the Canadian Hockey League sent an apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the incident.
Hurt feelings still exist
The Cataractes’ 6-2 smackdown of the Knights provided a major jolt of uncertainty and excitement to the four-team tournament. It certainly gave the local faithful plenty of hope.
The only other time Shawinigan played host to the Memorial Cup was in 1985, when the team suffered a double whammy, in the end.
That tournament was held in ancient Jacques Plante Arena, built in 1937, but it was deemed unsuitable for live TV coverage because of beams that blocked sightlines and dim lighting.
So the Shawinigan team, then known as the Dynamos, played the final against the Prince Albert Raiders in Drummondville, Que., about 109 kilometres east, on the other side of the St. Lawrence River.
“There were hundreds of Shawinigan fans there, but it wasn’t our barn,” said exShawinigan player Denis Paul.
That team, which included former Montreal Canadiens centre Stephan Lebeau, clings to the belief it would have won the Memorial Cup had the final been played in Shawinigan. Instead, Prince Albert won the final game 6-1.
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