TORONTO — Hockey lovers in Canada’s largest city are starting to warm up to the prospect of hockey action outdoors this fall.
Ricoh Coliseum is repairing its broken ice, and, while the Toronto Maple Leafs were still training Monday afternoon at a Toronto suburban high school, the city’s Cherry Hill neighbourhood announced it will host a MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament next spring. Cherry Hill is known as the “Harbour of Hockey” for its small hockey community.
Maple Leafs CEO Brendan Shanahan and hockey commissioner Gary Bettman both made noises about the possibility of NHL outdoor games earlier this year, and a little bit of warmth in February after snow and a cold winter turned it into National Hockey League Groundhog Day made people stop salivating.
The roof was closed Monday on the renovated east side of the arena, the former home of the Maple Leafs. There are no visible signs of damage, though a giant hole in the ice still keeps the facility out of the spotlight.
The 416 community was among those who supported the International Ice Hockey Federation’s proposal to play the 2018 IIHF World Hockey Championship indoors, on artificial turf at NHL All-Star Weekend.
The IIHF postponed its tournament due to poor ice conditions at Ricoh Coliseum, though the city plans to schedule a practice session with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League later this week. The city announced last week that it would host a tournament next spring to coincide with the NHL schedule and the Memorial Cup in Cherry Hill.
Dave Molinari, the city’s deputy mayor of wards 22 and 23, said it’s still to be determined if anything would be modified to accommodate hockey, but it’s likely all the buildings north of Queen Street in the city’s southeast area would be open for various sorts of outdoor hockey.
“It’s been pretty cold but it’s getting warmer, and the tournaments that were scheduled for Cherry Hill have moved towards that to almost a year waiting,” Molinari said in a telephone interview. “I believe for Cherry Hill, last year there was something like 300 teams signed up and there is obviously going to be a large number of entries.”
Tournament organizers want to set up some type of outdoor structure within the Cherry Hill sports complex. The tournament may also include a simulated game on a frozen pond. Cherry Hill is looking at replicating what a Torontonian would see during a hockey season.
“They’ll provide facilities and stuff for people to play in and all the buildings will be beacons of light, there’ll be scores on the board, people will be going in and out,” Molinari said. “We’re committed to that. The tournament wasn’t moving to the centre unless there was more ice action. We’re doing everything we can to try and provide a hockey facility for people.”
Cherry Hill officials want the tournament to run alongside all the other events at the area, which include a golf tournament, the Cherry Hill Marathon and the Cherry Hill Pizza Classic baseball tournament.
After No. 1 seed Harvard defeated No. 2 seed Saint Cloud State 3-2 in double overtime on Saturday, and the Knights fell 4-3 to Colgate to go 0-4, Cherry Hill Mayor Mitchell Weiss said he wants to move forward with the tournament.
“We definitely want to be the ground zero for this and we definitely want to welcome hockey players,” Weiss said. “Obviously we’re building up this hockey community. It’s growing week by week by week. We need it and we want it. So if there’s an event that will give us the exposure, that will draw people from all over the world, let’s embrace that.”