By Sarah Moore
Nineteen years ago, Halifax hosted the Memorial Cup tournament for the first time. Now, the tournament has returned to the city.
“It’s like a big family reunion,” says Dave Taylor, who is a volunteer in operations. “The city just comes alive when there’s exciting things like this going on.”
Taylor volunteered in 2000 as the logistics chair for the tournament.
“I remember the city being pumped because it was probably the first major event for this building and having a junior team — that pumped it even more.”
The Halifax Mooseheads were a young team then, playing in just their fifth season. In the Memorial Cup tournament that year, Brad Richards led the QJMHL’s Rimouski Océanic to victory, while the OHL’s Barrie Colts came in second place. The Kootenay Ice were the WHL representative in the tournament.
Taylor has been a part of other hockey events in Halifax, including the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship, the 2004 IIHF World Women’s Championship and the 2008 IIHF World Championship. He calls events like the Memorial Cup “a golden opportunity” for volunteers.
“The calibre of the hockey is always superb,” says Taylor. “Even today, the host team is not the weak link. The host teams have built themselves to be competitive.”
It’s a tournament supported by the entire city, as “people just thrive to help out.” Volunteers and fans alike rallied around the event to make it successful in 2000, and the same holds true today.
“You can still see why people get pumped about it. The atmosphere is still here,” says Taylor. “Everything about this city seems to generate more enthusiasm.”
To put together this year’s tournament, there are over 600 volunteers. Some will put in 10 hour days for the whole tournament, says Rob Harris, vice-president of volunteers on the 2019 Memorial Cup Host Organizing Committee.
“Some people just can’t get enough of this thing we call volunteerism.”
Harris did the same thing, managing volunteers, for the tournament in 2000. Back then, “I don’t think [the CHL] actually understood the product that they had, and it was a very marketable product,” he says. “I think we’ve seen a maturity there, nineteen years later.”
The Memorial Cup, as the pinnacle of junior hockey in Canada, is “the development of the sport of hockey in its most beautiful form,” says Harris.
And the volunteers who have returned to put on the big tournament are key to the experience.
“I brag that volunteers in Halifax, they’re full of hospitality,” says Harris. “We’re excited any time we get to bring people into our city in a large event because, frankly, we know we’re good at doing this.”