"If you build it, they will come"
Well, it's no Memorial Cup, but the CHL awarded the 2015 Top Prospects game to the Niagara IceDogs to host in the brand new Meridan Centre. Located in downtown St. Catharines, it's 5,300 brand new seats (with cupholders!) to bring in events and shows to our fair city. So far it's slow going, we've had an Allman Brothers concert, City & Colour, and the Tragically Hip are coming in February. This is probably the biggest event yet, until the OHL finals later on in May.
See, this is something we never would have had before. As much as I love our 85ish year old arena, with its 2 person wooden seats, barn like roof, smaller than regulation size ice, and a 1.5 person wide concourse, we never would have had nice things like this.
I got some tickets to this game and sent the kids to their aunts and headed down to the rink. Am I glad my ticket said 7 and not the actual 7:30 start. An event like this, even with 2 parking garages nearby, it was a nightmare to park at, one 6 story garage filled by 6PM, so good luck to out of towners who got in after that.
I'm not sure what I expected, but I knew it would be different than the usual crowd for an IceDogs game. It's a good crowd, but this event wouldn't have a single focus for the crowd to root on. I've never been to an all-star game or any other unofficial game before. No charity events, nothing. The 1st Winter Classic in Buffalo had that kind of a feel outside the stadium, lots of non-Sabres/Penguins sweaters were to be seen, but once inside it was a Penguins/Sabes game.
Here were the rosters for the game
I decided to take my 6 year old son with me, because I thought he wouldn't talk as much, I could watch, and take notes, and some free tickets were the best way to satisfy his urge to go to a game at the new arena. I find it's not worth the $25 to pay to take him otherwise (the "can we go?" questions tend to start by the 2nd period). Of course this turned out to not be true and he actually wanted to watch. But since this was a top tier event, tickets started at $35, there wasn't as many kids, and it was sold out, so he couldn't see past the adults in front of him. So on my lap he went and I have but my memory to rely on.
The pre-game experience was typical. Concessions had an extra table up with Top Prospect hats and shirts, I bought a program because hell if I knew who those WHL and QMJHL players were.
Easy going until we got to our section. Our usual usher was there as well as a man and a women in some super spiffy suits. And ear pieces. Ah, Mounties. Turns out my centre ice 10th row seats were located only a few rows behind the Prime Minister. Win big or go home.
For the Warm Ups each player wore their home teams jersey. It was quite a collection, and my shitty camera phone doesn't do it justice.
One section was dominated by scouts & NHL team personnel
Some thoughts one the game play from myself:
- Team Cherry did a great job shutting down Connor McDavid. They had some top notch defense set up against him, he didn't get many chances.
- Speaking of Team Cherry defense, a great 2nd round pick would be Vince Dunn of the Niagara IceDogs. He had speed and a solid game last night
- Despite him being on Team Cherry Evgeny Svechnikov of Cape Breton had a great game too.
- Daniel Sprong has a great last name
- Players were falling down all night. It was hilarious.
- People gasped pretty loudly when McDavid went down and hit the post leg first. He got up alright
- A player on Team Orr hit the boards leg first and limped off the ice, didn't leave for the room though.
- That's why this was a better version of an all-star game
- Ivan Provorov (Brandon) played well for Team Orr
- All 4 goalies played fantastic, made some amazing saves
- Lawson Crouse (Kingston) was good in the 1st, but seemed to lumber around the ice. The questions about ranking him #4 are valid for sure.
- Dylan Strome (Erie) may just outshine his brother
- Travis Konecny (Ottawa) stole the show. He's currently in the mid-20s for pre-draft rankings, but I can see him going much higher if you get a GM who isn't obsessed with size.
- If I was drafting based on this game alone, I'd go Konecny, McDavid, Dunn, Svechnikov, Provnorov
This rout is such a surprise. Don Cherry was such a successful junior coach. #OHL— Sunaya Sapurji (@sunayas) January 23, 2015
Kind of hilarious that even in a junior hockey All-Star game Cherry's team gets whipped— Independent Scout (@clrkaitken) January 23, 2015
Cherry eschewed all Americans and imports for an OHL team of fully "good ol' Ontario boys" and won 3 games all year.— Independent Scout (@clrkaitken) January 23, 2015