|Acadie-Bathurst Titan||Baie-Comeau Drakkar|
|Blainville-Boisbriand Armada||Cape Breton Screaming Eagles|
|Charlottetown Islanders||Chicoutimi Sagueneens|
|Drummondville Voltigeurs||Gatineau Olympiques|
|Halifax Mooseheads||Moncton Wildcats|
|Quebec Remparts||Rimouski Oceanic|
|Rouyn-Noranda Huskies||Saint John Sea Dogs|
|Shawinigan Cataractes||Sherbrooke Phoenix|
|Val-d'Or Foreurs||Victoriaville Tigres|
|Brandon Wheat Kings|
|Edmonton Oil Kings|
|Medicine Hat Tigers|
|Moose Jaw Warriors|
|Prince Albert Raiders|
|Red Deer Rebels|
|Swift Current Broncos|
|Prince George Cougars|
Hello fellow Bulls fans!
Our 8th season of Bulls ownership is already upon us. Training camp is over and 4 games of a 6 game exhibition series have been played. For junior hockey enthusiasts, we are at the starting line for 8 or so months of exciting times.
And my first blogging experience is also at the starting line…..
A few weeks ago, our rather youthful (yet brilliant) business team presented an idea to me that the Bulls could be one of the first teams in the OHL to try out an “Owner’s Blog”. Since I recently turned 50 years of age ( half a century!!), you may be thinking that they had to define what a “blog” is for me. But fortunately, with a youthful wife and mostly teenage kids, I already knew!
So I’ve agreed, for a couple of months at least, to blog about our team, organization, league, owner experiences, community, Belleville Bulls hockey in general, my observations about how our team gets built and what makes owning an OHL team kind of cool. Hopefully this is a more modern way to bring our fans “into the loop”. You’ll get this owner’s perspective about the amazing brand of hockey that comes with the OHL….if the blog seems interesting to most readers we can continue longer.
Blog # 1 picks up with our thoughts about last year, the key changes in the makeup of the team as we headed into training camp and the training camp experience for an owner. Also, since we recently played a game down in Wellington Ontario in support of the Dukes organization, we’ll touch on what an affiliation with a tier 2 Junior team means to the Belleville Bulls.
You’ve probably noticed lots of new faces in camp this season after several offseason transactions. Last year’s results certainly fell below everyone’s expectations; our fans, our players, our coaches, our player development people and yes, we owners. The previous year, GM George Burnett had led the plan to “go younger” as we wanted to kick start the kind of success cycle the Bulls had enjoyed since we became owners in June 2004. In 2011-12, we plan to get right back on track!
But first a little history. When we bought the team it was “dead last” in the entire CHL. After two tough rebuilding seasons, with George and Barclay’s steady hand and commitment to a plan, our organization enjoyed three tremendous years from 2006-2009. The Belleville Bulls reached the Eastern Conference finals three years in a row. In the second of those three years our team reached the semi-final at the Memorial Cup in Kitchener! Not many teams can claim such a sustained run of success but I’m glad to be an owner that experienced it. It sometimes surprises me how quickly some of our more critical supporters forget all the work that was done to build such a track record. But I digress…..
A great thing about junior hockey fans is the passion of their opinions. They vest themselves in the development of a junior team. During training camp every year I spend hours talking to fans that enjoy putting themselves in the GM or coach’s seat and trying to pick a team from the 40 to 50 prospects. They observe these young 15 or 16 year olds nervously trying to impress, try to project how they will play in our league and then debate, long and hard, the final decisions the Bulls’ staff makes. But there is so much more to it than just what is seen on the ice. And that, is where our Bulls’ hockey operations staff gets my full support…like everyone else they can watch what happens on the ice but they also have a view on everything else…elements like work ethic off season and off ice, school work, teamwork, character development, community involvement….it is from all of these factors that our team gets picked. We hope it all leads to a great cohesive team that will make Belleville Bulls fans proud.
This year, I got to training camp a little late, just before the second full scrimmage. So like all Bulls’ fans I too was disappointed when I walked down the hall to the dressing room to say hi to the guys and our athletic therapist Ryan Bennett broke the news to me that one of our big Dmen, Branden Morris would be out for a few months as a result of a severed achillies tendon. These are the things that can happen that in the blink of an eye that can change the best laid plans. (By the way I spoke to “Mo” recently and he has a great and optimistic spirit that will really help him during what will be a long and tough recovery). It was also Ryan that told me the next afternoon that the young Russian prospect we had just signed, Daniil Zarkhov, had broken his collarbone ( when you get a chance to talk to Daniil, you’ll find that he thinks he is a really fast healer and will be back sooner than the doctor’s estimates!!). So one perspective I can offer on building a team and the training camp experience is that there are always surprises, bad and good that can have a big impact on the plan. And throughout the exhibition games, our luck on the injury front has not gotten much better. But hopefully the guys mend fast and get back soon! Still, this gives us an even better opportunity to see more of our new guys like Jordan Subban, Mack Lemmon, Alex Carnevale and some of our other younger players!
Several of the guys that tried out at Bulls camp this year will end up playing about a 20 minute drive south of Belleville in Wellington, home of the OJHL Dukes. This is an affiliate team for the Bulls which means the hockey operations staff of both teams work closely together to develop prospects that will find their place and get to the next level in their career. Our family got to know Wellington and beautiful Prince Edward County well when our son Scott played there under the coaching leadership of Marty Abrams and in front of some of the most amazing junior hockey fans you could ever have. The Bulls will have first and second year prospects playing in Wellington this season and it’s likely that our club will see some of these guys up practicing or playing with our team at some point this season. We are proud of our affiliation with the Wellington Dukes and with their terrific development program, will give lots of young Bulls’ prospects a terrific start to their junior hockey career. It was fun to see Bill, Hugh, Dave, Robert, Mike, Marty, Betty and the rest of the wonderful Dukes executive when we played there this past Saturday. This Wednesday we play in Oshawa so if any of you make it down look for me and let me know if you enjoyed the blog!
Until next time,