Saturday, 16 June 2018

Neutral Site Game

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League released its schedule today, and there was one particular game that stood out to me based on the location of where the game is slated to be played. On October 27, the Virden Oil Capitals will meet the Selkirk Steelers in Gimli, Manitoba at the Gimli Recreation Center! I was a little surprised by this choice of a neutral site game as Gimli's population usually doubles to triples in the summer with the cottage folk, but remains fairly low when it comes to the winter. As much as I don't think Gimli would be a future location for the MJHL to expand into, the fact that the Steelers and Oil Capitals will play there should provide some insight as to what kind of crowd support the MJHL can get in the community.

As per the 2016 Canadian census, the permanent urban population of Gimli is 2246. That's not a figure that would indicate a large enough fanbase to support an MJHL team as Selkirk, the home team in this neutral site game, boasts an urban population of 10,278 as per the same census. Selkirk, for what it's worth, does fairly well with its attendance, but having 80% less people in town would hurt Gimli's chances at running a bigger operation in the MJHL. As a result, they do have the Gimli Vikings who play in the Keystone Junior Hockey League, a Junior "B" circuit in the province.

That being said, though, there's a great initiative here to push the game into potentially-interested communities and drive participation numbers up in said communities. As stated, Gimli is cottage country for many Manitobans over the summer, and that leaves very few permanent residents once the snow flies. Having some of the bigger teams in the MJHL play games in towns like Gimli should help push the game to new heights in those communities.

Selkirk is the closest MJHL team to Gimli, so it makes sense to have them as the home team. Getting last year's Turnbull Cup finalists in the Virden Oil Kings to meet them in Gimli bodes well for the play of the game as both teams should be competitive once again this season.

I think the MJHL taking a game to a neutral site is a smart idea. It shows the rest of the province the talent we're producing in Manitoba on the ice, and it showcases some great communities as potential future hosts for more games like this and, possibly, future teams for the MJHL. While Gimli may not fill a 10,000-seat arena, the fans are still as passionate as any other in this great province, and they'll be exemplary hosts for the Oil Capitals and Steelers in October!

If you have the means, make the trip north of Winnipeg and catch this game in a rather unique setting as Gimli, Manitoba hosts the MJHL on October 27, 2018!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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