More than 300 enthusiastic fans showed up for the open practice in Belleville today to watch their soon-to-be new team work through the drills on the ice before the team got a tour of the practice facility they'll be using next season. The reason they made this stop is because they are returning to Binghamton from Toronto where they fell to the Marlies 4-2 on Monday before hosting the Marlies on Friday. Having three days off between games means this is quick visit before they get back to business at home.
"It was unreal coming out here and seeing the stands full and people cheering," Senators captain Mike Blunden told Paul Svoboda of The Belleville Intelligencer. Blunden's brother, Stephen, played for the OHL Bulls from 2006-08. "It's going to be fun here. Belleville's a great hockey town. It was a great OHL town. My brother loved it when he played here."
If you're still reading this with one eyebrow raised and questioning the motives of the why the B-Sens would make this trip, it appears this visit to their new home was initiated by the players. "The players all agreed to stop here," said Belleville rec director Mark Fluhrer. "This is a day off for them. They're coming off a road trip. We're very appreciative of their efforts."
It sounds like fans, arena management, and the team are all pretty happy about this unscheduled stop on the team's day off. I'm not entirely against the team making this effort, but it just seems like with the Senators some half-dozen points back of a playoff spot, they're looking forward to next season instead of trying to close out this one with, to quote another red-and-black clad man in Deadpool, maximum effort.
I'm happy that Belleville is finding hockey after the OHL's Bulls left town, but it's not like the Albany Devils have gone wandering into Binghamton while the Senators were away and started checking out their new digs for next season. Albany is focused on the task at-hand as they compete for top spot in the AHL's Atlantic Division rather than taking road trips to Binghamton to meet fans. There will be lots of time for that in summer as the team makes its move, but the Devils know they have a job to do.
I don't know, but this seems like a classless move to me when there's still a month-and-a-half of games to play as the Binghamton Senators. I know that the city of Belleville is awaiting their arrival, but the Senators are still representing the city of Binghamton for the remainder of this season for however long that lasts. Showing up at their new home prior to the end of the season, to me, shows a serious lack of respect for the city of Binghamton.
I was a fan of the Senators in Binghamton, I would have dropped my support of them like a bad habit upon reading this story. The relationship was already tenuous with the announcement of the Senators moving, but this just shows a lack of tact when it comes to ending the relationship with Binghamton and the hockey fans in that city amiably.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!