City to support U of L hockey bid
U of L bidding to host U Sports Men’s hockey championship
The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns hosted a successful U Sports National Rugby Championship in the middle of a blizzard two weeks ago.
Now they hope to land another hosting opportunity with the U Sports Men’s Hockey National Championship in 2019 and 2020.
The eight-team tournament would feature postsecondary teams from across Canada. It would be held in March each year with more than 225 players, coaches and officials coming to the city for a fourday event at the Enmax Centre.
On Monday, council voted in favour of providing a $250,000 financial contribution from the City’s Major Event Grant ($125,000 per year), if the bid(s) are successful.
“This means we can go forward with a very strong bid,” said Ken McInnes, the U of L’s executive director of Pronghorn Athletics. “I think having this level of support shows a very strong message to U Sports that this community is prepared to host this and wants the opportunity to do that.”
The university will be bidding for the opportunity against other post-secondary institutions. It’s the first time they have put in a bid for men’s hockey.
If successful, it would provide an opportunity to showcase the city once again on a national stage. The Pronghorns would receive an automatic berth into the tournament. Hosting a national championship is also a “major recruitment tool” for the Pronghorns, said McInnes.
“When you go to a U Sports athlete who is deciding what school to go to, we’re limited by what scholarships we can provide, we’re limited by what we can do under the U Sports regulations. But when you can say to them you can come play in a great city, you can come to a great school, and we’re going to be hosting the U Sports championships for two years, boy, that is a powerful recruitment message.”
Bidding for two years was a strategic move, McInnes explained. U Sports could approve both years, one year, or neither. But having council funds committed toward the cause significantly strengthens the bid. “It’s a huge, major step forward for us,” said McInnes. “It sends a strong message to the bid committee that this community supports it, that we’re prepared to do it for two years.” The bids must be submitted by Dec. 8. U Sports has committed to making a decision by Dec. 20, said McInnes. The U of L’s event budget estimates expenses of $589,500 per year. They expect to turn a net profit of about $4,500 after ticket sales, sponsorship and grant contributions.
After the presentation to council, Mayor Chris Spearman questioned where the surplus would go, if there is one. McInnes said he would like to see it go towards programs such as Pronghorns summer camps in areas with less access to the university, such as the Blood Reserve.
Spearman said it appears to be a high-profile event, but cautioned council members over how they allocate grant funds. He said there would be several more requests put forward and this ask would use 25 per cent of the funds available in the Major Community Event Grant over the next four-year period.
Council voted all in favour with Counsellors Belinda Crowson, Rob Miyashiro, Jeff Carlson, Mark Campbell and Mayor Spearman voting.
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