Friday, September 24, 2010

Dynamic Heavy Haul

Sept. 24, 2010: Brooks, Alberta
Calgary Canucks 4, Brooks Bandits 3 (OT)

This blog's back to the rinks for a two-game tour of Alberta junior hockey. The goal: experience hockey in one of its spiritual homes.
The itinerary was dictated by time-off constraints and frequent-flier availability. That placed me in Brooks, about two hours east of Calgary on the prairie, for an Alberta Junior Hockey League game, in the second tier of junior, one step below major junior.
When it comes to arenas, I prefer old barns with character. Not what I found here; Centennial Regional Arena is barely 10 months old, rising out of the prairie south of the town, paint still gleaming.
It stands to reason; the town is small but seemingly prosperous thanks to quite visible petroleum drilling. So they're going to build the nicest darn ice arena they can. The Bandits are celebrating their tenth anniversary, and they clearly have strong volunteer support.
The game was clearly a social scene, though the place was less than half full. I overheard one fellow say, 'It's such a beautiful arena; we just haven't grown into it yet.'
The game had lots of end-to-end action, due perhaps less to the teams' offensive abilities than their inabilities to nail down their defensive systems early in the season. It ended with a 3-on-3 overtime - the latest carnival sideshow hockey's powers that be have developed to avoid ending games in ties.
Hokey minor-league touch: Select Bandits wore sponsor's names on the lower back of their sweaters. Captain Brett Howe, for example, wore 'Dynamic Heavy Haul' on his butt. He lived up to the billing, scoring all three Bandits goals. He was a force on the ice, and his force of will gained Brooks a game-tying goal late in the third. He demanded the puck from a teammate, bang, bang, BANG stick on the ice, he got it, he buried it in the net.
Really minor-league touch: Less than half the Calgary players had their names on their sweaters. Maybe Matt Heseltine will get his name on after his hat trick tonight.
My wife will be happy to read this: There were no fights.
Player notes: Calgary goalie Dusty Nickel didn't start, despite his awesome name. I'm also pulling for Bandit Lane Menage to rise through the hockey ranks, high enough to play in a game broadcast in French. Then he needs to score a hat trick, so the announcer can say 'Menage a trois.'
Game report here and boxscore here.

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