As Foster Hewitt would say, ”Hello, Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland”
On Saturday September 24, at Robert French Memorial Stadium in Conception Bay South, which was the actual Hockeyville winner, the Stanley Cup was on display.
There were autograph sessions with former NHL er’s Laurie Boschman, Patrick Lalime, and Shaun Van Allen to name a few.
On Sunday the players and a handful of NHL officials put on several clinics in Conception Bay South. But the real action was Monday.
The Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators held open practices, followed by a sold out exhilarating match that night. The Robert French Memorial Stadium was not an adequate arena for the NHL game, so in July they decided it would be held at Mile One Centre in St. John’s. The Jets came out flying at their 9.a.m. practice, with several break-out and passing drills. Hundreds of fans turned out, missing school and work to see a once in a lifetime practice. The Senators had their practice at 10 o’clock, with home town native Colin Greening hitting the ice. The Sens had a laid back practice, preparing for the night’s game on CBC.
“St. John’s is great, it’s a nice city, a nice coast place. I’m from P.E.I so it’s nice to get back here on here east coast”, Jets defenceman Mark Flood said. “It seems like a great spot, [a lot of] friendly people here.”
Mile One Centre was at capacity with 6,275 thunderstick wielding, screaming fans who haven’t had a professional team here since the St. John’s Maple Leafs left in 2005.
I for one cannot wait for the St. John’s IceCaps to make their home debut against the Hamilton Bulldogs on October 14. The place will be wild all night, and all season long.
“Obviously the guys are pumped and I look forward to it”, Flood said.
With a star studded lineup that included Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Onrdrej Pavelec and Daniel Alfredsson, the packed arena saw a thrilling game. When Colin Greening’s name was announced on the starting line for the Sens, the crowd roared for the hometown kid. No scoring throughout the first, but the Jets outplayed and out-shot the Sens 16-6.
The crowd erupted as Mark Scheifle scored his third goal of the pre-season midway through the second period to open the scoring, followed a few minutes later by Portage La Prairie native Troy Bodie. Scheifele was all over the ice, creating chances and great plays, as was D Paul Postma. Postma was solid throughout shutting down the opposition. By the end of the second, it was 2-0, with the Jets out-shooting the Senators 28-11. After the whistle to signal the end of the second, Chris Neil and Troy Bodie dropped the gloves, and the crowd went wild once again.
Alex Auld was replaced by Mike McKenna in net to start the third.
“I just had a bit of a muscle cramping, and given it was pre-season we didn’t want to take any chances” Auld said after the game.
Within the first six minutes of the third, the man drafted one spot ahead of Mark Scheifele, Mika Zibanejed, scored for the Sens on a powerplay. The Senators poured it on in the third, pressing to get a goal.
Another fight happened later, as Patrice Cormier dropped the gloves with Eric Gryba after Gryba threw a huge hit on a Jets player.
Ben Maxwell scored the third and final goal for the Jets, who was left alone in the slot, took his time, and wired a wrist shot to the left of McKenna. The Senators pulled their goaltender, but to no avail. The Jets won KRAFT Hockeyville 2011 3-1, out shooting Ottawa 36-28.
“I hope the NHL returns here, it was a really good experience,” said Senators fan Patrick Nicolle.
“The atmosphere here was unbelievable.”
Proud Townies, we can’t wait to get back to Mile One Centre for the IceCaps inaugural season, and for the NHL to resume the regular season on Thursday, October 6.
Follow me on twitter @CharlieDart for IceCaps news, in game tweets and more.