|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|
Blog Entry #3
It's About Making Memories
Ok, I understand that some readers might think the whole idea of talking about "making memories" can sound a little "soft" especially when we think of the hard nosed world of hockey. But when you actually break down the business of the Ontario Hockey League and what we sell as our product, I think the concept that "we sell memories" is a pretty valid one.
One of the most common questions people ask me is "what are your best memories since becoming the owner of the Belleville Bulls?". That's actually one of my favorite questions to ask Bulls fans, especially those that have been around and following our team a lot longer than I have. I also like to know, "when and what was it that really hooked you into becoming a Bulls fan?" Last year when we celebrated our 30th season, our fans and Bulls alumni had the opportunity to stroll down "memory lane" and review 30 years of making memories. We were glad to get a chance to work with our great partners at Cogeco and long time "voice of the Bulls" Jack Miller to put together a DVD entitled " Making Memories." In that piece (which won a Cogeco corporate award by the way) several fans, former players, coaches, and owners were able to relate some of their own rich experiences that have stayed with them and associated them with the Belleville Bulls for the rest of their lives.
One of the times that our own family has built some great Bulls memories has been during the annual team visit to our place in Uxbridge. Every year Coach Burnett and I work out a point in the schedule that works for the Bulls' bus to swing by for a few hours visit at the startof a road trip. My wife Sharon's home cooking is in full force and she puts together a nice simple meal with copious amounts of food; enough to feed a small army. The guys get to hang out; play ping pong, pool, watch movies, play chess and play video games. When PK Subban was here, my youngest son Jay, then around 8 or 9 years of age always challenged him to a video game of NBA basketball ....it always seemed that Jay kicked his butt too, although PK may remember it slightly differently. Jay might say that his best memory of all was the annual mini sticks game in a special area we had designated for that activity. You had to see it to believe it...big strong OHL hockey players in an aggressive game of mini sticks with my kids right in the middle of it. I have a great photo of Shawn ( Danger) Matthias fully engaged in the annual ministicks game trying to get the ball past little Jay. Since we have a few musicians in the family, there are always guitars and drums around. On several occasions jam sessions broke out with some pretty decent music. If I remember right Matt Pelech may have been the most accomplished guitarist so far but there have been others. And one of the best music sessions ever included Coach Grimes just pounding on the drum set...a very impressive talent to be sure. At the end of the visit, the team departs with Sharon's famous chocolate chip cookies under their arm for the road trip...this is the only " junk food" allowed during the day and I think that is because Coach Burnett himself seems to have a bit of a sweet tooth. But let's keep that our little secret. These are great memories for our family, that's for sure.
One of the big advantages the OHL has in the area of "making memories" is the level of access our fans have with these players while they are in our town. We work hard to give opportunities for hockey fans of all ages to meet the guys...Breakfast with the Bulls, Bowling with the Bulls, Charity Walks, Season Ticket BBQ, Skate with the Bulls....these are just a few of the times that fans can spend time with the guys, meet them personally, and begin to follow them and their progress. For those of you that have been Bulls fans for a lot longer than me, you will remember meeting these young players at events like this, or in town at a restaurant. Sometimes you can catch them when they come out of the dressing room after a game and sign autographs. Fans then have the opportunity of seeing them develop and follow their progress in professional hockey careers or in University hockey or their careers outside of hockey. I'm sure there are lots of times when you find yourself saying...."remember when?" That's the kind of making memories I'm talking about with Junior hockey.
So what are your best memories of the Belleville Bulls over your time of following them? We always love to hear them. It's likely that many readers even share some of them. I always enjoy hearing fans talk about the Bulls' playoff game that went, I believe, into the 4th overtime period and fans didn't get home until something like 2 am. In pre-texting or pre-cell phone days, that posed a problem for their families who wondered what ditch ( or bar?) they might have got caught up in. Is that one of your memories? I know that for many fans the team send off in Belleville's market square to the Kitchener Memorial Cup and the sea of yellow jerseys and ringing cowbells was a highlight. I know for me that our first home opener as owners meant that I had a chance to meet Walter Gretzky who was there to drop the puck. Meeting the great Leaf captain George Armstrong when he was in Belleville scouting was also a great memory The OHL All Star game we hosted a few years ago when I had a chance to introduce a very young PK Subban to one of his hockey heroes, Bobby Orr who was there to drop the puck at the opening ceremony also rings a bell. I just remember Bobby Orr and PK Subban sitting in one of our south end suites chatting as I left to attend to other stuff. These are the things in junior hockey that really stick in your mind as you think back and then have a chance to see what happens over time.
Of course not everything in junior hockey is peaches and cream. We also have those memories where we've seen kids injured, kids make wrong choices and experience hard disappointments. Life is real and we've had those moments to reflect on as well. For me, and I hope for those of you reading this blog, that you will agree that the chance to be part of Junior hockey as a fan, a parent, an owner - that it is a very memorable experience that brings mostly positive memories and a great sense of community. Here's hoping anyway, and looking forward to making many more Bulls' memories with you all in the years to come.
Ok, for those of you that might think, a whole blog about "making memories" is a little syrupy...I can try to get more "hard nosed" next time....maybe we should discuss our views on head shots, fighting, and Don Cherry? I guess we'll have to see.