Should the past be any indication, the 2003 edition of the Royal Bank Cup looks to be in the favor of Charlottetown’s Junior Abbies.
In the 32-year history of the championship the host team has played in the final game 24 times, winning 18 of those contests, the most recent being last year’s host The Halifax Oland Exports, who emerged as national champions.
Kevin Murphy, president of the host Abbies said his team has a good chance to hoist the cup.
“I think we’ve got a great team, we’re optimistic, we’re well prepared and we’re going into this…with one objective and that’s to win it. We think we’ve got the team, but a lot can happen in hockey,” he said.
Trevor Armundrud, formerly of the Melfort Mustangs and current business director of the team said there are a number of reasons for this trend.
“Teams have a lot of time to build a team because they find out a year or more in advance they will be hosting, and the coaches build for it,” he said. “Teams are rebuilding all the time, but when you know you’re going to be in the national championship it’s easier to recruit. It’s a great opportunity for 20 or so kids.”
Hugh Bodmer, president of the 1994 host and champion Olds Grizzly’s agreed.
“You can start prospecting early if you know you are going to be in the national championship,” he said.
Sponsors are also easier to come by for the host team, which means more money, and more money means it’s easier to attract talent.
“You can afford to build a team because with more sponsors you can spend more money,” said Armundrud.
Money and time are not the only advantages, said Bodmer.
“The host team always seems to have an advantage in home games. One reason is they get to sleep in their own beds and the distraction of being in a new town and being a tourist doesn’t exist,” he said.
The host team really gets behind their team for the week, said Bodmer, adding to the home ice advantage.
“I was in Calgary for the 1988 Olympics and the same feeling was in Olds, it was a huge advantage for our boys.”
Murphy said a sellout crowd in your home rink always makes a difference.
“You’re playing in your home rink in front of the home crowd, a sellout crowd, and that makes a difference. I think that’s got to help our team and give us a little bit of an advantage over visiting teams.”