Moments before the announcement was made that Regina would host the 2018 Memorial Cup the players and coaches packed into a board room in the Moose Jaw arena.
It was 70 minutes before game time, but head coach John Paddock wanted to make sure his team got to hear the good news as it was announced live on national television.
The Pats’ bid presentation – made in Toronto three weeks ago – was successful and in their own 100th season, the team will get to host the 100th Memorial Cup.
“I think everybody’s excited and proud that we got the Memorial Cup for next year,” said Pats stand out 19-year-old forward Sam Steel.
“It’s exciting times and we’re all – the guys who are going to be back – are looking forward to that,” he said.
The Pats beat out the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Oshawa Generals to win the hosting rights.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of anything I’ve been involved in in the game in 40-50 years. This is tremendously exciting,” said Ed Staniowski, a Memorial Cup winning Regina Pats alum, former NHLer and integral part of the team’s bid.
Staniowski also highlights an important connection that the Pats brought out in their presentation for the Cup: a connection to the military. After playing in the NHL Staniowski served in the Canadian Forces reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Besides the service of Staniowski, the Pats have their own connection to the military, being named for the Prince Patricia’s Light Infantry.
It was something that the CHL took note of when they were deciding what club would be awarded the tournament.
“(The Memorial Cup) is dedicated to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and the Pats stand for so much of that, being named after the Princess Patricia Infantry and the program John Paddock has built is second to none,” said CHL president David Branch.
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But the Pats are trying not to get too ahead of themselves right now, considering they still have the 2017 season to take care of.
“We’ve got to focus on this year,” Steel said. “I think we’re all excited for next year, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
The Pats have dropped three of their last four games, but as of Sunday they remain the top team in the WHL. They were also the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot.
The Pats will lose some of its stars for 2018, including captain Adam Brooks, but Paddock made moves already that will help the team continue to be competitive next year. Trades that brought in forward Wyatt Sloboshan, Josh Mahura and Jeff de Wit have added depth to the roster going forward.
“When you host the Memorial Cup, it’s pretty much your responsibility to be a really good team, a contending team, so they’ll be a little bit of pressure there,” Steel admitted before adding, “that’s nothing new.”
One thing that is certain is that despite this season’s result, next year is sure to be a big deal for Regina and for the Pats tea mplaying in the tournament, just ask Staniowski, who called it a “pinnacle event” for the players.
“They won’t realize it even when the play the game – that final game next year – how big it is,” he said, calling on his own experience in 1974. “60 years later, 50 years later, 30 years later, it’s still right there in the forefront of your mind what you were a part of, something much bigger than yourself.”
The Memorial Cup will take place May 17-27, 2018.
With files from Ryan Brandt