Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Games In Faraway Places

We've talked a lot about outdoor games this year already, and the season isn't even underway yet. Spokane, Washington will host a game, Calgary, Alberta will host a game, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will host a game. The strange thing is that no one has opted for a neutral site game outside of the preseason, and it might be something that one of the smaller leagues should look at when considering expansion and growth of the game. With all of the outdoor games in the WHL this season, it seems almost automatic that they would move a regular season game to a neutral site to help grow the game in the major junior hockey ranks. Thanks to some planning and foresight, the WHL will play one regular season game in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory in 2011.

According to a QMI report, the capital city of the Yukon will play host to the first junior game in that province's history. The WHL game between the Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers will take place on February 12, 2011 at the Canada Games Complex in Whitehorse in conjunction with the CBC's Hockey Day In Canada celebration. The Kamloops Blazers will be the designated home team for the event.

There is a rich history of hockey in the Yukon Territory as Dawson City sent a team called the "Nuggets" to Ottawa in 1905 to challenge the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup. The story of how the men arrived for the game is the stuff of legends as they were forced to endure dog sled, ship, and train over the course of a month to arrive in Ottawa.

Needless to say, their travels took quite a bit out of the players, and they were destroyed by Ottawa 9-2 and 23-2 in the two-game affair. In the second game, Silver Seven star Frank McGee set a record for most goals in one Stanley Cup game with fourteen!

In 1997, there was a re-enactment of the trials and tribulations that the Nuggets went through when a Dawson City team traveled to Ottawa to play the Ottawa Senators' alumni in a game at the Corel Centre. While the Dawson City team was crushed 18-0 in the fun-spirited game, the Senators' alumni donated 45% of the gate receipts to the Heart Institute, the Dawson City team donated the cash equivalent of twenty-five ounces of gold to Yukon Special Olympics, and the remaining 10% went to Yukon Minor Hockey.

I think this game between the Giants and Blazers will serve to further the game of hockey in Canada's north. We've seen great players come from faraway places - Jordin Tootoo and Jonathan Cheechoo, as two examples - and this kind of growth will only result in positives for the Whitehorse community.

And all growth for this game is important for its survival! Who knows... maybe Whitehorse will one day have a WHL team to call its own? Only time will tell, but this is an excellent start to that era.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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