July 19th, 2019

Supporting events at the Canalta Centre will be a magnet for more

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on January 17, 2019.

A hockey announcement this week was good news and has great potential for Medicine Hatters to make it very good news — for the local community and the Canalta Centre.

The Hat will co-host Hockey Canada’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, an international tournament with an emphasis on teen-aged talent, next fall in conjunction with Swift Current, it was announced Wednesday.

The World Juniors or the Memorial Cup it’s not, and that’s enough for some Hatters to shrug their shoulders and wonder what’s the big deal.

The same sort of told-you-so person likely noted with some satisfaction this week when a World Wrestling Entertainment Live E vent scheduled for next month at the city-owned arena was cancelled.

The stated reason was logistics problems for WWE cancelling its undercard show here. Two years ago a Bob Dylan show was similarly cancelled for reasons vaguely described as scheduling.

That is coupled with a revelation that an operating loss at the three-year-old city event centre is growing. Hockey fans will note the lacklustre attendance at Tigers games that’s become standard since the new building opened.

Many will see all of it as a continuation of a complicated and not entirely happy relationship Hatters have had with their new hockey rink.

That’s valid, but continual nay-saying serves little purpose.

Taking a refreshing breath, however, and considering throwing some support behind the newly announced tournament can go a long way to putting a strong foot forward for not just the building’s success, but the Hat in seeking bigger, better events.

Securing the tournament has been a long-term goal of the Medicine Hat Games society, which morphed this year into the Medicine Hat Sports and Events Council.

Struck last year, it’s made no secret that they feel this tournament is an audition for larger, higher profile tournaments and events.

The previous body concentrated on provincial and regional multi-sport events, such as the Alberta Winter Games, the Alberta Special Olympics, and other provincial and western Canadian championship tournaments.

As successful as those may have been — they drew thousands to the community to bolster both Medicine Hat’s profile and hospitality industry — they’re hardly the stuff to capture the public’s imagination.

Aside from several warm-up games for the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team, there hasn’t been high calibre international hockey here since who knows when.

International events? The Continental Cup of Curling, held almost a decade ago at The Arena, comes to mind, but not much else.

Many will say here, and they have a point, that the contracting out of the Canalta Centre to SMG-Canada, a division of continental venue manager with a talent booking wing, was key to making the building a success.

Wasn’t it the Esplanade Theatre that was punching above its weight so to speak when it attracted acts such as Snoop Dogg, Slash and others in years gone by?

But, in a vein similar to “if you build it they will come” it’s time Hatters ditched the mindset that wonders “we’ve built it, why aren’t they coming?”

The reply from Bob Dylan or wrestling promoters is likely that they can’t sell enough tickets.

The Hat could probably sell out a Memorial Cup or a World Junior game, but let’s get real.

A Memorial Cup bid is largely in the court of the local owners of the WHL franchise, and there is absolutely no indication one is in the offing.

World Junior medal-round games played on Canadian soil now take place in NHL-sized arenas as an expectation and requirement of breaking even on the high-profile, but expensive tournament.

You can sit and wait for this to change, or you can mark next November on your calendar and support the U-17 tournament. That puck is in your court.

(Collin Gallant is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)

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