TRURO - This is what the Truro Bearcats have been waiting all season for.
The Bearcats (33-9-0-5), after six months of delays, finally get to play their first game at Rath Eastlink Community Centre (RECC) tonight when they host the Metro Shipbuilders (4-44-1-1) at 7 p.m. Better yet, they'll do it in front of a packed house of 2,500 fans, making it the largest hockey crowd in Colchester County history.
"There was a lot of talk in the summer for the rink being ready for October but now that it's finally here it's really exciting," Bearcats captain and Lower Onslow resident Travis Moore said. "It's definitely a big day for us."
The $48-million building, which also includes a pool, gym and rock-climbing wall - all still under construction - was initially scheduled to open for the start of the Bearcats' MHL regular season. However, several delays have pushed the unveiling to tonight, as the Bearcats are winding their schedule down while in the thick of a race for first in the EastLink Division with the Yarmouth Mariners (34-9-2-2).
The two sides tangled last night in Yarmouth - visit www.trurodaily.com for the result - and will meet again Sunday at RECC before Truro visits Metro on Tuesday. The Bearcats also have a make up game with Woodstock to finish the season.
Truro entered last night's game just a point behind Yarmouth for the division lead.
The community centre delays have made tonight's contest that much more anticipated for the players.
"There's been a lot of talk about it," the 20-year-old Moore said. "Even with last week, just practicing here and moving our stuff back and forth was kind of a tease to the players and staff."
It's also exciting for area hockey fans. Tickets for the game, which were handed out free of charge thanks to Bearcats owner Stu Rath, had run out early Monday morning after the team started issuing them at last Saturday's final Bearcats game at Colchester Legion Stadium.
Looking up to see that many people watching will be stark contrast for players who are used to seeing an average of 566 file through the doors so far this season, which put the Bearcats seventh in the 11-team league in attendance.
Bearcats head coach and general manager Shawn Evans said he wants his players to soak up the moment but was also quick to reiterate there is a hockey game to be played with coveted points on the line.
"They need to be able to enjoy the night and look around and enjoy the atmosphere," Evans said of the capacity crowd. "Then they need find a way to be mentally ready to play the game. That's their job."
Aside from being a brighter and more modern building to play in, the new arena's best attribute in the eyes of the Bearcats is the dressing room and equipment area strictly dedicated to the team.
"The boys all love it," defenceman Zach Evans-Renaud said. "For the boys that haven't played, it's the closest thing to major junior. They did a great job putting everything up and putting our stalls in and there's not much more we could ask for."