TRURO - Oh, what a hockey night it was Saturday in Truro.
Wait...it was in Truro, wasn't it?
It's a question that smacked nearly every one of the 2,800 fans who made their way through the doors of the Rath Eastlink Community Centre (RECC) for the $48-million building's first-ever game as the hometown Bearcats hosted the Metro Shipbuilders.
"I don't even feel like I'm in Truro now," town resident Cheryl Nasson said, adding the arena gave off a "professional" air.
There were certainly plenty of signs the game, which the Bearcats won 4-3, was taking place in the Hubtown. Those were the same Truro Bearcats on the ice who had been wearing the uniform all season long. The same familiar faces from Colchester Legion Stadium were in the RECC stands cheering their team, selling 50/50 tickets and working security.
But this new venue was bigger, the lights were brighter, the music was louder, T-shirts were being tossed into the crowd during intermissions and the 50/50 winner walked away with $3,200. It all made for a big-stadium feel that almost convinced people it was happening some place else.
"A lot of people go to Halifax for a Mooseheads game for this kind of atmosphere," Paul Canfield, a 27-year-old Truro resident, said. "Now it's in this town so I think a lot of people will come here instead of going to Halifax."
Adding to the big-city allure was the introduction of the Bearcats, who skated one-by-one onto the ice through a smoke screen and highlighted by a spotlight.
"My daughter said it's like we're not even watching the Bearcats, we're watching somebody else," said North River's Joanne Toole, who billets Bearcats defenceman Zach Evans-Renaud.
Aside from her connection to the team, Toole said she wanted to witness the historical night first-hand.
"I wanted to see them in this facility and to be part of this opening event," she said.
She wasn't the only one. Even before stepping foot inside the stadium it was plain to see this was no ordinary night. About 15 minutes before the doors opened at 6 p.m. - the opening faceoff was set for 7 p.m. - a line of fans snaked from the building's East entrance, around the corner to McClures Mills Road and down to the intersection of Wade Road.
At the front was Salmon River's Susan Cook and her five-year-old son Dawson. They arrived at 4:50 p.m.
"Dawson, isn't feeling well but he was determined to come," Cook said. "I've never waited for this long for anything. This is historic. It's absolutely amazing. I can't imagine (the Bearcats) not winning tonight. We'll be standing and cheering."
Once the opening ceremonies, which included the player introductions and a video presentation on the centre's construction, concluded, there wasn't much for fans to cheer about. The Bearcats, perhaps caught up in all the hoopla, fell into a 3-1 hole before mounting a comeback in the third period, which saw them score twice while outshooting the visitors 29-5.
"I like the Cats. They are really cool. I like this place better (than the old stadium). It has more room and looks better," said Chloe Lindsay, an eight-year-old Truro Heights resident.
Not everyone was as enamoured.
"The only problem I see is the seats. There's no foot room. There's actually less in this rink than there was in the old one," Truro resident Wendall Howatt, who has regularly attended Bearcats games since they rejoined the MHL in 1997-98, said.
Although Canfield, who has been a loyal fan for the past five seasons, said he enjoyed the game experience at RECC, there are some aspects of watching games at Colchester Legion Stadium he'll miss.
"In the old rink you could hear the boards a lot more and hear (the players). But here it's a new atmosphere."
Bearcats defenceman Ryan Moore, who scored the winning goal, said he and his teammates were excited to play in front of such a large crowd, something they haven't done much of on home ice in recent years. Moore said he hopes the fans keep coming back in droves.
"It makes the game a lot more fun when there's 2,500 people here," he said.