By Lyle Carter
With only weeks to go before moving into the new Rath Eastlink Community Centre, it’s an exciting time for the Truro Bearcats junior A hockey club.
“We’re anxiously awaiting the move into the new building,” said team president Keith Mackenzie. “It’s going to be fantastic playing in the new facility. It will be something Truro has never seen before. It’s just tremendous for our organization and the hockey club. Hopefully, we’ll add to our fan base.”
The Bearcats should get to play in the new facility by early February and team owner Stu Rath is hopeful attendance, which has fallen off in recent years, will improve.
“I think it will make us or break us as far as attendance goes,” said Rath. “It should hopefully bring new people out to the games. Sitting in a new, modern and comfortable facility will be good for older fans especially.”
In an outstanding gesture by the local team, there will be no admittance for the Bearcats first Maritime Junior Hockey League home game played in the Rath Eastlink Community Centre. However, the Bearcats are working with two charities who will be accepting donations for worthy causes at the door.
The Bearcats are hosting the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship May 1-5 and have attempted to put together a high-calibre team in order to compete with such league powers such as Summerside, Woodstock and Yarmouth. The results so far (22-6-0-3, second place in the Eastlink Division) have been positive.
“We feel we have the makings of a real good hockey club,” said Rath. “We have some experienced hockey players in the lineup. This is a good hockey club, as good as we’ve ever had. I’ll be quite disappointed if we are not knocking on the door.”
MacKenzie said the team did get away some from the normal trend towards developing young players.
“We don’t usually bring in so many 20-year-olds,” Mackenzie said. “But this year we aimed at putting some tremendous talent together. On paper, this is possibly the best Bearcats team ever. Like Stu, I expect our club to finish strong.”
A number of local players have stepped up, too.
“We have six locals in the mix,” Rath said. “This is something. We have more local guys with our hockey club this season than ever before.”
Rath said the recent arrival of big power forward Grant West from Campbellton will help.
“Grant is learning our system. He’ll be listening to Shawn (Evans) and we’re certainly glad to have him. Grant brings a lot to our club.”
The Bearcats have also added 18-year-old Alex Hazelhurst from the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Mackenzie also paid tribute to the owner of the hockey club.
“Stu is much more than an owner,” he said. “He’s really an assistant general manager. He’s always working hard to assure that we have a better hockey club.
“Stu has done an awful lot for local hockey. We’re very fortunate to have him in Truro.”
Shawn Evans, in his 11th year as the team’s coach and general manager, was also included in the hot-stove session.
“Shawn has always been a good coach,” Rath said. “He’s growing into being a real good general manager as well. We’re lucky to have Shawn. He’s turned down some good opportunities to stay with us.”
“It’s hard to believe that this is our 16th season. We’ve been fortunate to have a winning record every year and we’ve won the league championship a couple times. There’s always lots going on. Everyone puts a lot into it. Who wants to be retired anyway? A guy doesn’t want to just sit around.”
Tonight, the Bearcats visit Yarmouth to play the Eastlink Division-leading Mariners and next Saturday night at the Colchester Legion Stadium they’ll meet Pictou County Weeks Crushers.
TAGLINE: Lyle Carter’s sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.