By Gavin Axelrod
Canada’s best in university men’s hockey will take centre stage at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) in 2024.
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold are set to host the U Sports men’s hockey national championship tournament next season, the university announced on Monday afternoon.
It’ll be the first time in program history that TMU hosts the men’s hockey national championship tournament, also known as the U Cup. The university has previously hosted three national events, the last one being the 2019 U Sports women’s basketball Final 8 Tournament.
“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to represent our institution on our home ice and work toward trying to win a national championship on home ice,” head coach Johnny Duco told The Eyeopener. “That’s what drives us and we’re super excited about that opportunity in front of us.”
The Bold had their best season in program history last year finishing the campaign with an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) bronze medal, punching their ticket to the national tournament for the first time ever and defeating a national powerhouse in the University of New Brunswick at the event before finishing fourth in the country.
And while the team automatically receives an entry into the 2024 tournament as hosts, Duco doesn’t want the squad to rely on that fact..
“We want to earn our way into the tournament and put our best foot forward,” he said.
Duco added that the program had “brief discussions,” that turned out to be “nothing more than just talk” about hosting the 2022 tournament if Acadia University couldn’t, but ultimately they didn’t put a formal bid forward.
“At the end of the day this was the first time in my time that we’ve put forward a formal bid and really put our best foot forward to nail down the tournament,” said Duco.
Duco said it’s a rewarding feeling to host nationals—but not just for him. He ran down a laundry list of coaches, players, scouts, video analysts and analytics staff who have contributed to the program’s overall success.
“The head coach usually gets some of the praise for it but these people are putting in tremendous hours and hard work and sacrifice,” he said.
There’s still lots of hockey left to be played before TMU can look toward nationals in 2024. The Bold currently sit at 8-3-1 on the year and are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
TMU returns to action this Thursday at the MAC against the Brock Badgers, their second last game on home ice before the new year. The Bold will look to string together wins in their final four games before the winter break in their pursuit of an OUA championship and a national tournament appearance in Charlottetown this coming March.
But the opportunity to have nationals at the MAC isn’t lost on him amidst the ongoing campaign.
“The opportunity to host the national championship on home ice is once in a lifetime and a pretty special opportunity,” said Duco.