MONTREAL — Teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League hoping to earn a spot in the 2012 Memorial Cup Tournament are going to have to go through Shawinigan.

In a noontime announcement on Thursday, the league’s independent committee charged with selecting the site of the tourney announced that Shawinigan will host the prestigious junior hockey tournament next year, the next time the QMJHL will host in the three-league rotation.

“The selection committee rigorously analyzed each candidacy and made a decision based on the evaluation grid,” Gerald Jannetau, chair of the selection committee, said. “The committee’s decision to select Shawinigan to host the event is based on the fact that their bid had all the elements from top to bottom to convince us that they would present an excellent 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup Tournament: great hockey team, good organizing committee and superior installations. Moreover, we felt that the whole community was behind the bid. Each organization was well-prepared and made very professional presentations.”

Four organizations were bidding for the tournament, which will be held from May 15 to 23, 2012 — Cape Breton, Halifax, Saint John and Shawinigan.

Other members of the committee included Robert Basque, Michel Cote, Vincent Damphousse and Bernard Valcourt.

They’re No. 1

Baie-Comeau won the QMJHL draft lottery Thursday and will select first in the 2011 entry draft in Victoriaville.

The league enters the two non-playoff teams — this year it was between the Drakkar and Rouyn-Noranda — in a lottery, with each given a 50-50 chance at earning the league’s top pick. The intent of establishing the lottery was to avoid teams purposely losing games to gain the top selection.

This year, the top overall pick is projected to be another elite Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia-born skater with large upside and tremendous expectations, in the mold of former league superstar Sidney Crosby. Nathan MacKinnon, who like Crosby has played high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota, has shunned those comparisons already.

“It’s never fun to be compared to the best player in the world, but I guess I take it as a compliment,” MacKinnon told the Toronto Globe and Mail earlier this season. “I know I’ll never be Sidney Crosby. I just want to play my own game and not his. I don’t like to compare myself to him too much, because you can’t, he’s too good.”

There are rumors swirling that teams — such as Rimouski and its four first-round selections — will try hard to trade into the No. 1 overall position to draft MacKinnon. Rouyn-Noranda GM and coach Andre Tourigny had come out in recent days and publicly stated he would not trade the pick, and intended to draft the budding star. Baie-Comeau has not made any statement one way or another what it intends to do with the pick.

Greatness begets greatness … they hope

With practice over and lunch settling in their stomachs, the Maineiacs’ staff scheduled a surprise stop for the team Thursday afternoon, bringing the players to the Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.

The team’s tour guide? Head coach J.F. Houle’s father, Rejean, a member of the Canadiens’ hall of fame and that team’s current alumni association director.

The Maineiacs toured the media facilities, including press row in the rafters of the massive building, and then descended to the main level. There, the Houles had a special surprise for the team, and led them into the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room and fitness area.

The elder Houle spoke of the pride, passion and commitment the Canadiens require of their players, pointing to the dozens of plaques and pictures of past Montreal heroes that adorn the walls of the dressing room.

“It’s good for the players to see this, to see in a way what it takes to get to that next level,” J.F. Houle said. “To start the next round of the playoffs, we hope this gives the players a little bit more motivation.”


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