By Gerry Hale
The 47th Maritime Junior Hockey League season opens Friday on three fronts.
By Sunday evening, all 11 teams will have had the opportunity to strut their game.
The season comes on the heels of one of the best the league has experienced. Member teams hosted the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, a prospects event, the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian tournament and the RBC national championship.
Each event was well run and showed the rest of the Canadian Junior Hockey League what the Maritimes has to offer by way of organization, facility and calibre of hockey.
The offseason was not without change and challenge. While the same franchises are ready to open, a number will see coaching changes, and one is in a new location. In each case, optimism is high and the respective organizations are prepared to put their game face on and put their best foot forward.
Competition within the Eastlink and Meek Divisions should be keen from the get go. As always, inter-divisional play will generate some serious guessing from start to finish. The successful teams learn early there can be no nights off and alterations will be made right up to Jan. 10 when roster are frozen.
The Bearcats entered the week with 23 players remaining in the stable. Included are two goalies, seven rearguards and 14 forwards. Choices still have to be made but speed and chemistry, two powerful hockey qualities, are very much evident.
The team will begin on the road and, as usual, play to their strengths. Keeping things simple will be key. Friday, the Bearcats face a Campbellton Tigers club, which underwent a coaching change. Troy Ryan, a veteran junior A coach fresh from the CIS ranks, will have his team prepared and ready to compete. Saturday, the Bearcats meet the Timberwolves in Miramichi. This offensively gifted team is talking large and apparently has the guns to back it up.
Starting on the road can be very positive. Ironing some wrinkles, learning some roles and bonding all contribute to preparation for next weekend's home opener.
Other league games on tap for tomorrow will see the Yarmouth Mariners playing the Bridgewater Lumberjacks, in Liverpool, and Amherst being the guest in the inaugural home opener of the Valley Wildcats in Kentville.
The Bearcats are still in need of billet homes. If curious, contact Joanne at the Bearcats office (897-1035).
Gerry Hale is media relations co-ordinator for the Truro Bearcats junior A hockey club