The Real Cost Of A Losing Team

In the month of May the only thing you can see at Kingston’s Rogers KRock Centre are the monster trucks,  if you want to see OHL hockey you have to go to Oshawa.   So we did,  hitting the 401 on Mother’s Day weekend to see Game 2 of the OHL finals and Erie’s phenom Connor McDavid.

When you a get a taste of junior hockey played at its highest level,  you understand just how much we’ve been cheated in Kingston.

The price Kingston fans have paid for supporting a team that has never been competitive.

Oshawa fans call themselves ‘Gens Army’, a sea of red sweaters and shirts fill the GM Centre even during warm up.   Outside there is a a buzz and it’s not just from the small beer garden setup near the main entrance.  There doesn’t appear to be anywhere nearby you’d want to have a beer before the game, to say downtown Oshawa is not very nice, would be an understatement.  I asked one fan where we’d find, “the nice part of Oshawa?”   He thought for a moment and replied, ‘Whitby.”

I was thinking how much better this would be in Kingston.  Parties in the square with live bands and a really big beer garden before and after the game.  Not to mention our unique local pubs and restaurants overflowing, try finding that in downtown Oshawa.

But because the Frontenacs never win, Kingston misses out.

Kingston has bid twice to host the Memorial Cup and never got past the stage where the CHL selection committee just rolled its collective eyes and said. “Kingston, really, you’re kidding right?”

We’ve got everything we need to host the tournament,  except for a team, which is the most important aspect of the bid.

We also have something no other city has,  the history.    Kingston hockey pioneer Captain James T. Sutherland founded the Memorial Cup here in 1919,  after two local hockey heroes died overseas;  George Richardson and Scotty Davidson.   Sadly, the tournament has never come ‘home’ .

In fact,  it’s pretty cocky (or delusional) to submit a bid and expect to host the Memorial Cup when you haven’t won a single playoff series since 1998.  And you wonder why, when they show up the OHL Board of Governors meetings, no one takes Kingston seriously.    Thank God for Sudbury, or we’d be the OHL’s permanent punchline.

A few years ago I co-chaired Kingston’s bid to host the RBC Cup,  Canada’s Tier 2 hockey championships.     We had a great organizing committee and an exceptional bid.     What we didn’t have was a decent rink.     The RBC Cup is played at the same time as the OHL Finals,  and the Kingston Frontenacs wouldn’t give up their home rink.   Just in case they happened to be playing for an OHL title.

Now,  I know what you’re thinking,  like any other sane hockey fan,  pigs will fly before that happens.

Doesn’t seem to matter to them,  so we go to Calgary to present our bid to Hockey Canada and we’re forced to pitch the Memorial Centre as our home rink for the tournament.

Try doing that with a straight face.

The suits at Hockey Canada are looking at us funny and ask,  ” don’t you have a brand new rink downtown?”

Sure we do,  we just can’t use it.  It’s sitting there empty, waiting for the Fronts to get to an OHL Final.  Its been over 40 years and we’re still waiting.

Not only does the ineptitude of those on Tragically Run Way prevent Kingston hockey fans from ever enjoying an OHL Final or Memorial Cup,  they shut the door on other potential hockey events; including the RBC Cup.  Apparently,  it’s written somewhere in their lease.

I suggest you get to an OHL Final or a Memorial Cup,  the experience should make you a lot more vocal about the wreck of the Kingston Fronteancs and what it has really cost us as a community.

Fans in Oshawa  think they’ve been shortchanged.    During intermission,  I overhear one conversation among Oshawa fans saying, ” we haven’t won a Memorial Cup since 1990,  it’s been a long time.”

I look up at the banners and it reminds me Oshawa won 4 OHL titles between 1983 and 1997.   I mention Kingston’s little 17-year playoff drought and they look at me like it can’t be for real.   One of them asks,  ‘Doesn’t Doug Gilmour run that team?”  I nod my head and he replies, “I thought he’d do better than that”.    Exactly.

In Oshawa, three rows from ice level,  you see the intensity and the price the players pay to get here.  The importance of every single shift,  the dogged determination,  players on both sides throwing themselves to block shots and finishing bone crunching checks.  Things you don’t see at a game in January.

I watch and think to myself, how the hell did Kingston beat Oshawa six times this season?  It just doesn’t seem possible.

On this night, Oshawa’s grinders come through, shutting down McDavid and the raucous fans in Oshawa see their Gens take a 2-0 series lead.

GM just announced a couple weeks ago they’re slashing another 1,000 jobs this year at the Oshawa plant.  Another tough blow to the gut for this city, but on this night,  everyone is feeling good.

A trip to the Memorial Cup is clearly in their sights, that’ll pickup everyone’s spirits in this town.