Here’s a novel idea. Hold a tournament to award the biggest prize in Canadian junior hockey. Invite the champion from each of the three, major regional leagues.

Rather than select a neutral site, invite a host team on the premises that they were good last year, they play in a cavernous arena, and heck, it’s their league’s turn to host the thing.

Now engage everyone in a round-robin tournament with a championship round bracket that’s about as easy to understand as the do-it-yourself instructions for itemizing deductions.

Quite the fan friendly enterprise, this Memorial Cup playoff in Vancouver this week.

The fan observing a post-season game in any sport has three inalienable rights: To recognize a clear winner; to identify the loser; and to understand what comes next without needing an interpreter or a Masters degree in quantum physics.

That’s where the Memorial Cup monstrosity is weighed and found wanting.

Everywhere I turn this week, some rabid Lewiston Maineiacs fan asks me, the detached observer, what Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Giants or Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime stumble to the Plymouth Whalers means to their title hopes. And I end up feeling like Paris Hilton having been asked the square root of one.

Rumor has it that the Maineiacs played a tie-breaker game against the Whalers late Thursday night, even though Plymouth already won their previous head-to-head pairing. I suppose that’s because Plymouth lost to Medicine Hat, whom Lewiston whacked in its opening game on Saturday night.

Sheesh, why didn’t the Canadian Hockey League just call the Maine Principals’ Association and have the formula for Heal Points faxed over? That’d spice things up.

With any multiple of four teams in a tournament, a scintilla of common sense dictates a double-elimination draw. I know, that means a team could fly 3,000 miles, play two games, turn around and go home. Life’s rough. That’s better for everyone than a team that lost two of its first three still harboring a chance to win.

Also, a host team should not be guaranteed a spot on the dance floor more than a week or two in advance. Why not award the fourth berth to a wild card team, say, the one with the best record not to win a league crown? Maybe that was Vancouver this year, anyway. I have neither the time nor patience to look it up. But at least make somebody earn it.

Then put the proceedings in a 12,000-seat arena constructed upon neutral sod. Hockey allegedly is Canada’s national game. Curiosity seekers ought to fill the place, right?

As it’s organized now, the Memorial Cup is nothing more than a money-making scheme. So Maineiacs fans, don’t shed many tears if your team doesn’t win it. Lewiston brought home the trophy that mattered.

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