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Humboldt to host 2012 RBC CUp

We got it. Humboldt will be hosting the 2012 RBC Cup - Canada's Junior A hockey national championship tournament in May, two years from now. Humboldt's bid committee was notified of their success by Hockey Canada on May 29.

We got it.

Humboldt will be hosting the 2012 RBC Cup - Canada's Junior A hockey national championship tournament in May, two years from now.

Humboldt's bid committee was notified of their success by Hockey Canada on May 29.

A day later, the news still hadn't really sunk in for the heads of the organizing committee.

Lee Dufort, a co-chair of Humboldt's bid committee for the 2012 RBC Cup, heard the news in a phone call from Hockey Canada around 12:45 p.m. on May 29.

"He said, 'the committee has come down with their decision and you guys came on the right side of the coin'," Dufort reported.

"I was just vibrating," he added with a grin.

Many of the fine details of the tournament - ticket packages and that sort of thing - have yet to be ironed out. Hockey Canada is asking the public to stay tuned for more information, as those details and more will be announced in an upcoming press release.

Some official contracts still have to be signed, as well, Dufort noted.

"There are some things to do to make it official," Dufort said. "But we've been announced as the winning bidder."

Humboldt was up against Fort McMurray, Alberta, Port Alberni, B.C., and Kingston, Ontario for the tournament, and though Hockey Canada did not tell the local committee why Humboldt was chosen over the others, the local committee feels it was, at the most basic, because of their strong bid.

The other teams didn't lose their bids, "Humboldt won it," Dufort said.

Humboldt's package, noted Gord Lees, another co-chair of the committee, was full of strengths.

"We felt, all along, real confident and that we had a strong bid," said Lees.

A top notch facility, and being able to ice a competitive hockey team were two criteria at the top of Hockey Canada's list for the bids, and Humboldt has both, Lees indicated.

The Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt is already a first-class facility, Lees said, but for the two things that have to happen to bring it up to Hockey Canada guidelines for the event - fixing up the dressing rooms and installing another media box. And those two things the city has committed to doing.

As for proving Humboldt can ice a competitive hockey team, "that's a no-brainer," said Lees.

The Humboldt Broncos have won two national titles in the past seven years - in 2003 and 2008 - and placed second at the 2009 tournament, losing to the Vernon Vipers. In 2007, the team lost the ANAVET Cup to the Selkirk Steelers in quadruple overtime in Game 7. That history speaks for itself.

And that history, combined with the strong corporate and fan support of the team locally, all helped Humboldt win the bid, the two felt.

Another part of Humboldt's bid pointed out that 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA), and that the Humboldt bid had the backing of the SHA.

"We played on that," said Lees.

The year 2012 will also be the 25th anniversary of Humboldt hosting the Centennial Cup, so having the re-named RBC Cup championship in Humboldt is pretty fitting.

Humboldt also has a history of hosting events with Hockey Canada, like the World Hockey Challenge in 2006 and the World Junior pre-tournament game last December.

"Anything we've hosted always seems to be successful," said Lees.

Saskatchewan in general has a strong history of hosting great RBC Cups, Lees added. In recent years, Melfort, Flin Flon, Weyburn and Yorkton have all hosted successful national tournaments.

"(Hockey Canada) indicated to us early on that (the Cup) will go where it's been successful," said Lees. It wasn't going take turns between east and west, or come back to Saskatchewan just because it's been a while since this province hosted it.

"That's not a good enough reason," Lees said.

But Humboldt, due to its recent successful events, had a good shot at winning the bid, Dufort felt, because Hockey Canada "knew us. We were on their radar," he said.

Humboldt also has a great history of hosting very successful events in other areas, such as stops on the World Curling Tour, the 2002 Saskatchewan Winter Games, and even the annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce in 2008.

"It's not just hockey. All this stuff has always been successful," Lees said.

The volunteer base in Humboldt is extremely strong, the two noted - which was another point Hockey Canada was looking for.

"Show me a community this size that has a stronger volunteer base," Lees challenged.

That volunteer base was tied into the legacy the bid committee promised this event would leave in the community.

Building on their experience in running for Kraft Hockeyville 2009, which involved so many groups beyond the local hockey community, the RBC Cup 2012 committee promised that they would involve as many community organizations as possible in hosting events during the tournament, like tail gate parties. Profits from the events would be kept by the organizations.

"Spread the wealth," is the theory they're operating on, Lees noted.

The bid committee also promised the event would leave behind a Bronco scholarship, and contribute to Humboldt's second arena fund.

Humboldt's size, the local committee feels, was also in their favour. In larger centres like Cornwall and Victoria, the RBC Cup tends to get lost in the shuffle.

In a small community like the Humboldt region, the RBC Cup will be the biggest thing in town.

"Everyone... will know the RBC Cup is on," Lees said, not only in Humboldt, but around the province.

"It will be a huge event here (in Saskatchewan)," Lees said.

"It will be huge," Dufort concurred. "It will be the biggest event Humboldt will have seen.... The Broncos are the game in town."

Add all this to a growing population base in the region and Humboldt's proximity to the airport in Saskatoon, and Humboldt's bid was, it seems, too good for Hockey Canada to pass on.

There was simply too many strong points and no glaring weaknesses in their bid, Dufort said.

"I don't see how they couldn't give it to us," said Lees.

Though the committee was confident about their chances, they did have some last-minute jitters.

"We were confident, but not over-confident," said Lees.

"Everyone went over and over it in their heads since March 17," Dufort noted, which was when they officially pitched their bid to Hockey Canada.

Now that they have it, there's a lot of work ahead of the committee, which they're already getting prepared for - striking committees, making long "to-do" lists and consulting with past host communities. But they are looking forward to that with smiles on their faces.

"I feel we have an awesome committee together, and (putting on this event) is going to be fun, not work," Dufort said.

The committee is hoping to round up a large number of volunteers to help them with this tournament - between 400 and 500 is their goal, but "the more, the merrier," they said.

"We don't want to depend on a few people," Lees said.

One thing they're not too worried about is public support for the event from the region.

"The support (the Broncos) receive from the area is strong," Lees said.

"The support (the RBC Cup) is going to get, I think we're going to be surprised by the strength," Dufort said. "If it catches fire like Hockeyville, look out."

This event will have a very large budget, the two noted, and they will need the building filled with fans, as well as strong corporate sponsorship in order to make a profit.

"If we have fan support and corporate support, it will be a success," Lees noted.

Meanwhile, on the ice-side of things, Dean Brockman, the head coach of the Humboldt Broncos, said the news still hasn't sunk in for him.

"Wow," was his response when asked how he felt.

Brockman was part of a committee that bid for and lost the 2003 RBC Cup, which the Broncos ended up winning, in Charlottetown, PEI. So he knows the disappointment the other communities are feeling right now.

Having the tournament at home won't really change the focus of the team on the ice though, he stated.

"Other than being the host team, it doesn't really change the day-to-day operations," Brockman said, "and it can't. Our focus is on putting the best product we can on the ice every year."

However, as the months go by, he added, the event will add value to their organization because of hand-in-hand fund-raising.

"There are definite benefits to be had," he noted, "but I don't think it changes the game plan of survival every year."

As to what it would be like to win at home, "I'll tell you if it happens," Brockman stated. "It's hard to imagine."

Brockman has been assisting with the bid, and will likely be called on throughout the planning process, due to his experience in attending other RBC Cup events.

"He's been a tremendous help to this point," said Lee. "We were really lucky to have his input and wisdom."

Hockey Canada and the SHA will also be consulted throughout the planning process, and will act as resources for the local committee.

So far, the reaction in the community to this news has been positive, including from the city's political leader.

"It's very exciting," said Humboldt Mayor Malcolm Eaton.

"I think it's a real recognition of the success our community's had, the reputation our community has had, and the reputation the Broncos have established," he said.

Eaton noted that he's sure all the bids were excellent, but that he feels Humboldt was chosen "because there are things about Humboldt and Saskatchewan that are pretty attractive."

This event, he continued, will not just be a Humboldt event - it will be a regional and provincial event as well. The region has already been involved in the bid process, Eaton said, and the province as well, through the SHA.

"This will be a great opportunity to make this a provincial event, a regional event, as well as a local Humboldt event," he said.

The 2011 RBC Cup will be hosted by Camrose, Alberta.

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