|Ken Morrow and Bryan Trottier |
It's been over 30 years since North Bay, Ontario last saw NHL hockey played in their city of over 54,000 people.
NHL hockey will return to North Bay Monday evening when the Islanders take on the Atlanta Thrashers at the Memorial Gardens as part of their winning of the 2nd Annual NHL Kraft Hockeyville contest.
For the second straight year, the NHL partnered with Kraft to bring an NHL exhibition game to a town in Canada. Hundreds of towns submitted videos explaining why theirs should be dubbed Hockeyville for 2007.
After inviting a few kids to their town, who were affected by Hurricane Katrina and had never seen snow, North Bay won the competition, $10,000 to help renovate their rink, a visit from the Stanley Cup and their very own NHL exhibition game.
"This is probably one of the most exciting things that ever happened here," said North Bay event coordinator Brad Gavan. "North Bay members and people from the surrounding areas worked so hard to make this happen. I told my boss we would get number one, and we did. I'm very happy for us."
Islanders legends Bryan Trottier and Ken Morrow kicked off the historic weekend in North Bay by partaking in a couple of outdoor events on Sunday celebrating the NHL and the town of North Bay.
After taking an early flight from Moncton, where the Islanders took part in day three of Training Camp, Trottier and Morrow landed in North Bay, which lies four hours north of Toronto on Lake Nipissing , and visited Canadore College for an exclusive outdoor barbeque.
A few hundred residents purchased tickets to the fundraiser that helped support the local Food Bank and Kids for Sports program. It was a gorgeous late summer day, which included not just Trots and Morrow, but the Stanley Cup. Hockey's most prized possession was on display for the general public to touch and pose with for pictures.
"We wanted to have it at Canadore college where we have a great pond, on which hockey started in North Bay," said Gavan. "It's great for everyone to have the Islanders here – young and old. Parents are always talking about Morrow and Trottier and what they've done for hockey."
The line to the see the Stanley Cup was indeed long, but so were the lines to receive autographs from two of the Islanders' Core of the Four contributors.
"To bring NHL hockey back to a place that hasn't seen hockey since 1968, it's great to be a part of it," said Morrow. "When you see the smiles on their faces as they take a picture with the Stanley Cup, there's no better feeling."
Added Trottier: "It's nice to represent the Islanders up here. The allegiance in this area is split between Toronto, Boston and Montreal, but there are quite a few Islanders fans up here. Hopefully we turned a few more to root for the Islanders. It was a fun day today and there's a lot of enthusiasm for the game tomorrow."
With over 80,000 people in the North Bay area and fewer than 5,000 seats in the Memorial Gardens, a lottery was instituted for the city. Some, such as North Bay resident Gary Pearce were lucky to win two tickets in the lottery.
"We're very fortunate our town has this exhibition game with the Islanders," said Pearce, who was accompanied by his son, Jordan at today's event. "We applied for the lottery to get tickets and we won, so we're looking forward to going to the game. It's awesome to see Trottier and Morrow. I remember watching them on television when I was younger, so it's great to see them live."
Despite not being in traditional Islanders country, North Bay residents were fully appreciative of their opportunity to meet two of the Islanders Dynasty members. One fan, Ken, sported Islanders apparel from head-to-toe, noting that his girlfriend had bought him the clothes for Christmas.
Also in attendance were NHL alumni from the region, including former Maple Leaf Gary Leeman and current Atlanta Thrashers broadcaster Jeff Odgers.
After signing for every fan at Canadore College, Trots and Morrow moved onto a more public event at nearby Thompson Park. The park was situated behind the 52-year old Memorial Gardens, which will see NHL action in less than 24 hours.
Pitching a tent at the Thompson Park event was a notable organization called Hockey Heritage North, dedicated to honoring NHL players from Northeast Ontario, including Islanders head coach Ted Nolan. The organization has a wonderful 18,000 square foot multi-faceted complex in Kirkland Lake, Ontario which has on display the extensive historical archive of hockey-related material outside of the Hockey Hall of Fame. For more information about their organization, please visit www.hockeyheritagenorth.ca.
After an exciting day of signing autographs, shaking hands and promoting the sport of hockey, it was time for Trots and Morrow to call it day. On Monday morning, they will visit a number of local schools in anticipation of the evening's contest between the Islanders and Atlanta.
* For more scoops and insights from Training Camp check out these blogs from the Islanders PR department
* You can also find more coverage of Training Camp at www.soundtigers.com