It's the start of a new season for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (0-0-0-0) and the Nanaimo Clippers (0-0-0-0) as the teams meet at the Frank Crane Arena for the British Columbia Hockey League's opening night of the 2017-2018 season.
There are few nights over the course of a year that compares to opening night. A fresh sheet of ice, a fresh slate, nothing but zeros through every team and individual column. It's a night that many players may always remember, if it's the first one of their career. Granted, the excitement level might be lower for the players, coaches , officials etc that have been "been there and done that", but opening night is always guaranteed to get the blood going in anyone involved with hockey. For the guys new and old that maybe are feeling a butterfly or two floating around their guts, in the end, it's just hockey. A fresh sheet of ice and skates stick and puck. It's important when the energy level and nerves might be a little high to just try and focus on the fundamentals and not try and do to much. Push the pace and move your feet, take the body and shoot the puck. Oh yeah, one more thing. Outwork the other team. Do that and the rest will take care of itself!
I would say that's half right, but maybe the more accurate thinking is that every night is big, and every minute within it, and every shift, faceoff, backcheck, hit and shot are of equal importance. Two points is two points, and you never know if you might be playing on the last day of the season needing two points to make the playoffs, like the Dogs did two years ago, or win your division or claim home ice advantage.
It's been a number of years since the Bulldogs organization has had the amount of turnover both on the ice and off the ice from one year to another that occurred from last spring to this fall. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, Kevin Willison was relieved of his duties as Head Coach and GM. Alex Evin resigned his position as Assistant Coach, and Athletic Trainer/Therapist JT Ward also tendered his resignation.
Matt Hughes was subsequently hired as Head Coach and GM, soon afterwards joined by Jeff Dubois who will serve as Assistant Coach, and Scott Crema - Trainer and Equipment Manager.
On the ice - it's almost an entirely new team, with just four returning players.
Catch all the action on Pacific Chevrolet Bulldogs Hockey on 93.3 The Peak FM with the broadcast going live for the pregame show at 6:45, with the puck drop and play-by-play to follow the pregame pomp and circumstance and ceremonies at 7:00.
I'll provide the play-by-play and hosting duties, while Dan Tisserand compiles and provides team and player stats and Bruce MacDonald provides colour commentary and analysis.
BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale will be my 2nd Intermission guest.
Listening Live on your computer: www.933thepeak.com
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Watching Live on your computer/SmartPhone www.hockeytv.com