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The 2024 Memorial Cup presented by Dow will be a spectacle surely unimaginable to James Thomas Sutherland, who established the Cup in the wake of World War I as a memorial to Canadians — particularly hockey-playing Canadians — who died in that conflict.
Even those familiar with hockey, with Saginaw and with its Dow Event Center will likely be surprised by city-pride improvements in a public space adjacent to the venue — a legacy project being brought to life in connection with the tournament.
James Sutherland, considered the “Founding Father” of Canada’s hockey heritage, helped develop and spread amateur hockey throughout that country and, in time, the northern United States.
In his youth, Sutherland played hockey on the frozen Cataraqui River in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario. He later played in the Ontario Hockey Association’s first season, coached and refereed. He became president of that organization and then, in 1915, of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. In 1916 he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and while overseas in World War I, was reelected OHA president.
Sutherland had called for hockey players to aid the war effort; after the Armistice he suggested a trophy be awarded to junior hockey’s best team each year, in honor of Canadian soldiers, many of them junior hockey players, who had died in that first World War. That became the OHA Memorial Cup, later the Memorial Cup, and in 2010 its mission was expanded to honor all fallen Canadian military personnel.
Sutherland, the Memorial Cup’s founder and a noted hockey historian, was one of the inaugural 1945 inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and of the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston in 1947.
The Memorial Cup, originally awarded through a series of league, provincial and regional playoffs and an east-vs.-west championship, switched to a round-robin format in 1972.
For the 2024 tournament, the four teams will play through May 29, when the host Saginaw Spirit will take on the OHL champions (or runners-up, should the Spirit earn the crown). A tie-breaker, if needed, will be held May 30, semi-finals on May 31, and finals June 2.
Watching teams vie throughout their seasons for a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament is sure to build enthusiasm for the event in hockey fans!
There’ll be plenty of action on the ice of The Dow Event Center during Memorial Cup play, but even more for fans to see and do in and around the tournament venue and surrounding region.
Watch for details on the ever-popular Memorial Cup Fan Fest, with features provided by the Hockey Hall of Fame. An enthusiastic welcome will be held for the arrival of the Cup itself — and a Food Truck Alley adjacent to the venue will entice fans to stop for street fare on their way into and out of the arena. A top-talent concert is to be announced for the neighboring, outdoor Jolt Credit Union Event Park, along with a Spirit of Community Speaker Series to be held inside The Dow Event Center.
The area abounds in activities and attractions, too — in Saginaw, and beyond to the rest of the six-city Great Lakes Bay Region. In Midland, the 110-acre Dow Gardens boasts the nation’s longest treetop canopy walk. Bay City and Frankenmuth both launch a lineup of river cruises, and you can cruise on Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, too — or sample its world-class walleye and bass fishing.
Kayaks are available for rent across the region and, while shopping’s abundant throughout, special highlights include: Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland and the 40-store Frankenmuth River Place Shops; Bay City Antiques Center/Bay Antique Center, a block-long antique mall that stands as Michigan's largest; and Birch Run Premium Outlets, home to 100-plus retailers.
Fans flocking to The Dow Event Center for the 2024 Memorial Cup presented by Dow will also experience a new source of civic pride: the Henry Marsh Plaza Project.
Marsh was the City of Saginaw’s first Black mayor, and in fact, one of the first Black mayors in the United States. After earning a law degree at Wayne State University in 1950, he opened a law practice in Saginaw in 1954 and in 1961 was elected to the Saginaw City Council. He became mayor in 1967, and under his leadership, Saginaw was named an “All-American City” by Life Magazine. He retired from the Council in 1969, but remained active in the community. He died in 2011, at age 89.
Marsh’s faith, devotion to family, accomplishments and passions will be celebrated in a 1,560 sq. ft. mural spotlighted in a changeable, lighted atmosphere, anchoring the new plaza reuniting Saginaw’s north and south sides, east of the Saginaw River currently divided by highway I-675.
The universally accessible urban space will salute equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. The facility will also improve access to river recreation, and contribute to sustainability through recycling programs and the addition of a ‘beehive hotel’ for these important pollinators.
Besides providing a great first impression of the City of Saginaw and honoring Mayor Marsh, the plaza will create an inviting, walkable space amid cultural, entertainment and recreational facilities, and serve as a hub to an ever-expanding trails network. It will provide space for art installations and other outdoor exhibits, and at water’s edge provide shore-fishing access to the Saginaw River’s national-class walleye fishing.
Planners eye the site as the “front door” or primary entrance to the City of Saginaw, a multi-use space adjacent to The Dow Event Center itself, host of the 2024 Memorial Cup presented by Dow.
Dow will serve as presenting sponsor of the 104th Memorial Cup. The Company is a long-time partner of the Saginaw Spirit. Headquartered in Midland, Michigan where it was founded more than 125 years ago, Dow has strong ties to Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, including the Saginaw area.
In a press conference announcing the sponsorship, Dan Mackenzie, President of the CHL, said, “There’s no doubt that (Dow’s) partnership with our championship event will help us elevate the experience that our fans will get to enjoy in Saginaw next spring.”
Craig Goslin, President and Managing Partner of the Saginaw Spirit, said Dow’s “leadership consistently proves their commitment to making the entire Great Lakes Bay Region a better place for residents and visitors alike. The 2024 Memorial Cup presented by Dow will bring visitors from all parts of Canada, the USA, and other countries to honor the soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice and to celebrate the elite talent of the CHL’s student-athletes. ...to have Dow as its presenting sponsor brings us the ability to make it world-class.”
Dow, said its head of Global Sports Partnerships Carlos Padilla II, is “proud to align ourselves with both the Saginaw Spirit and the CHL to deliver this historic Memorial Cup in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region.”
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL), with Go Great Lakes Bay, presents “Spirit Rising: Go Great Lakes Bay’s Exclusive Look at the Quest for the Memorial Cup,” a nine-part series streaming free on OHL Live and CHL TV on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. ET; fans can also follow the series on TSN and NHL Network.Read More +
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Steve Griffin, a Midland-based, full-time freelance outdoors writer, has been covering that beat for newspapers and magazines for longer than he likes to admit. He began with a manual typewriter and a film camera — and says that in every way outdoors, these are the "good old days"!