One of hockey's biggest events faces off in the Great Lakes Bay Region in 2024

By now, you have probably heard that The Memorial Cup will be hosted this year in Saginaw, and you probably heard it from this guy: Jimmy Greene. Greene is the owner and founder of Jimmy Greene & Associates.

He’s suspended his operations to lead the special event sales operations for the Saginaw Spirit and The Memorial Cup. He is the former CEO and President of The Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) Michigan, Greater Michigan Chapter, and the Greater Michigan Construction Company.

Through the Q & A below, not only will you read more about this exciting event, but you will also see just how passionate Greene is about our region and what a lasting effect this 10-day tournament – taking place May 24 to June 2 – will have on our region.

Q: What sets The Memorial Cup apart from other tournaments or championships?

A: The Memorial Cup is a lot more than a hockey game and I think the folks here in the United States tend to look at things in just myopic views, but The Memorial Cup for the Canadians is a tribute. In 1919, they named this trophy after all their fallen soldiers, initially for WWI. Now, it’s transcended into any war that any Canadian has died in and they are honored by this Memorial Cup. So, you can see that it has a different kind of importance than, say, our Stanley Cup, which really is about hockey. It really has a different kind of significance to Canadians and that’s why it is so important. The name – the word “Memorial” – is intentional by design. The event itself is a ten day round-robin. Each team will play each team over that period and what’s interesting about that is that they are already champions. The four teams competing are already champions. They have all already won in their leagues. So, now, this is the championship of the champions, which makes it even that much more special. What’s interesting is that NHL players who have won the Stanley Cup and talk about their missing ring or trophy always say, “yeah, I won the Stanley Cup, but I never got to win The Memorial Cup.” We are hosting what Canadians consider to be their greatest championship.  

Q: How did you get involved with The Memorial Cup?

A: It’s important to note that Dick Garber has owned the Saginaw Spirit for 22 years and never made a profit. Talk about community support – I don’t know anything greater or better than his support of the team and the community.

I’ll give you a little history – I decided to leave my job after 15 years and Dick, who is my best friend in the world, reached out to me with Craig Goslin and said “Look, we have something coming in.”

Now, I have been a season ticket holder for 13 years. My daughters have grown up there and now they work for the Saginaw Spirit, which is pretty cool, as a dad, to have hockey chicks.

Dick reached out and told me about The Memorial Cup and after 13 years, I still didn’t really understand The Memorial Cup. I just didn’t understand the significance.

So, they sat me down and said "We need someone who knows the region and the region needs to know this person. We really need to create awareness and some bandwidth on this thing, would you be willing to help?"

I literally parked my business for this because how can you say no to someone who has given so much to this community? If nothing else, I have certainly created a lot of Spirit attention. When I think of what Dick and Craig have done, my part is small. My part is small from a monetary, and even a community, standpoint.

Q: Why is it a big deal for The Memorial Cup to come to Saginaw?

A: It’s a huge deal. It’s not even a BIG deal. It goes way beyond big deal. There are 60 teams that cover this entire league. More importantly, it’s only been held here three times – in the United States. Those three times are all on the west side of the country in Seattle, Spokane, and Portland. That’s it and that was 30 years ago.

Here, we are east of the Mississippi and think about the names I just mentioned: Seattle, Spokane, Portland… and now, Saginaw? It’s almost funny.

So, how did we win the award, and you talk about the significance of the Great Lakes Bay Region? If it was just about Saginaw, we wouldn’t have won.

I’ll be very frank, and I am very candid about that. Saginaw hosts the Spirit, where the arena is. We won because we are the Great Lakes Bay Region. When you look at the bid process, it covers Frankenmuth, Birch Run, Midland, Bay City and Saginaw Township and City. It covers all the surrounding communities, also.

Freeland is an example and all of those were pertinent during the bid process. So, when you look at the bid, you see Bayne’s, The H Hotel, The Loons, the mall in Birch Run, Uptown in Bay City, you see all these jewels that we take for granted.

They didn’t (take them for granted) and we were looked at as one entire region and what is important to me is, and I say this all the time, is that they did something that we don’t do. They looked at us and created one zip code. So, we are 48-period. We’re 48-Spirit.

It’s kind of cool because we tend to separate ourselves by zip code here in the region. If we fail, it’s not going to be just a Saginaw thing. It’s going to be a Midland thing. It’s going to be a Bay City thing. You win with the region, and you lose with the region. So, when people talk about the significance of this, it’s significant for all of us because The Memorial Cup is all of ours.

I always say that we don’t get “do-overs,” but we do get “do-betters.” I honestly believe that this is our chance to do better. We can do better. When we take a snapshot of where we were and then compare to where we are when The Memorial Cup is over, we can look at things like transportation and corporate citizenship and we will see that we are doing better – in Midland, Saginaw, the whole region.

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