Mastercard Memorial Cup

Deep in the thick of the tournament, I have heard the same question a few times: How does the Memorial Cup Tournament work? Let’s see if we can deconstruct the rules so it’s less of a maze to navigate.

Okay so firstly: It is a Round Robin tournament style. In that tournament style each time participating plays each team once. Easy enough. Once each team has played each other then it gets weird.

In a normal Round Robin, there are many rounds that involve each team playing each team and the winner of the tournament being determined by the most wins or a tie breaker. (Depending on the tournament style)

In the Memorial Cup, there is a short time to complete the tournament and the organizers are looking for the best to play the best. So the first round is considered to be each team playing each team one time. At the end of that the team with the best win/loss record advances to the final automatically. The next 2 best teams play in a sudden death playoff round to play for the other final spot.

Now, here’s where the format takes a bit of a left turn into the hedges (maze reference), and where people ask the most questions. If there is a tie, the CHL has a list of rules:

  • If there is a tie for who advances to the playoff position there will be a sudden death game played by those teams for who advances to the playoff round. The team that gets home ice advantage is the team who won the game against each other in the first round. (If team A beat team B, Team A gets home ice)
  • If 3 teams tie for the playoff position, the record for each team against the team that advanced to the final round is removed. Then the goals for each team is added to the goals against. Then you divide the goals for by that sum to get your percentage. The team with the highest percentage advances to the playoff with home ice advantage, and the other two teams play a sudden death game with the highest percentage getting home ice.
    • In the event this didn’t solve who moves on, then add in the game against the team who advanced to the final and use the same formula.
  • After that formula if two teams still tie for the playoff spot, the game they played against each other earlier on is the determining factor to whom moves on. So, if Team A beat Team B in the first round, then Team A moves on and Team B is eliminated.

That last rule seems harsh to me. In every other situation you have a sudden death game, but in this situation, for the sake of time, you have a team eliminated based on a single performance that already happened. I suppose having 2 sudden death games forming a smaller Round Robin within the Round Robin would be convoluted, but still… back to it.

Still with me? Okay, that determines who moves into the playoff round to play for the spot in the final. Now, who goes to the final in the event there is a tie for win/loss? This one is MUCH easier:

  • Same idea as the playoff round. Use the formula to get the percentage for each team. This time you leave out the record for the team not tied for the final. (Because there are 4 teams there will always be one team not tied in this situation) The highest goes to the final automatically and the other two teams play in the playoff round (highest points gets home advantage).
    • In the event there is a tie from here add in the 4th team and get the percentage.

Got it? To recap, in the event of a tie it’s the percentage gained from goals for plus goals against, divided by goals for. For the playoff round you remove the team advancing to the final’s records and add back in for a further tie. If there is a further tie a team is just cut based on the winner of the tied teams in the Round Robin portion. In the event of a tie for the final same idea, just removing or adding the not tied team. In all cases the team with the highest win/loss

So right now the standings are:

Windsor Spitfires (Host): 2-0

Erie Otters: 2-0

Saint John Sea Dogs: 0-2

Seattle Thunderbirds: 0-2

On May 23rd Seattle and Saint John play each other. The winner will advance to the playoffs because they cannot tie with the Otters nor the Spitfires. In the Otters case, they are advancing to the final (at this moment the percentage could change in their last game against the Spitfires) because they are 16 for and 7 against (16/23 = 0.70%), and the Spitfires are only 10 for and 3 against (10/13 = 0.77%). As of right now the Spitfires will move on to the playoff round and face the winner of the Sea Dog versus Thunderbirds game.

As of reporting this Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters sets a Mastercard Memorial Cup record with 7 points in 1 game against the Saint John Sea Dogs in their 12-5 blowout.

This is going to be an interesting tournament from this point on. It’s still anyone’s game for that trophy. That’s all for now CHL fans.




Long time aspiring writer looking to turn thoughts into passionate work.

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