Saturday, May 10, 2008

How about them (not Chicago) Bulls!

As I write this post at 9:01 p.m., my hometown Belleville Bulls are within one period of doing something quite remarkable. Trailing 3-0 in the Ontario Hockey League final against the powerhouse Kitchener Rangers, and down 4-1 midway through game four of that series, no one would have thought that the Bulls would find themselves one good period away from forcing a game seven. But, that’s exactly where they are now—tied 3-3 heading into the third period in Belleville.

If you are reading this on Friday night around 9 p.m. and you have $6.95 burning a hole in your pocket, you may want to surf on over the official OHL web site and buy the web stream of the third period. I’ll spare you the lecture about why you should care about junior hockey (outside of the two weeks around Christmas). Instead, I’ll just point out that watching game where one team can win a championship and the other can take one more step towards doing something truly historic is always going to be worth your while.

More on this one after the third…
Update: 4-3 Belleville, 17 min left

Yip Yip Yip - Update #2 - Belleville 5-3, 5:06 left!


Belleville adds the open net goal to win game six 6-3 and force game seven Monday in Kitchener. Forgetting for a moment that I grew up in Belleville and that my very best childhood memories involve going to Belleville Bulls games with my late Grandfather where we had season’s tickets right behind the net--all that just makes me a happy fan right now. Even if I put that aside and just look at things as an objective observer of the game there is really only one thing to say.


This is what makes junior hockey so fun. It can be so beautifully unpredictable. Because the players are just kids—very talented kids, but still kids—you never quite know what to expect. But, even in the unpredictable world of OHL hockey this is something. Especially when you consider that the Rangers have been the No. 1 ranked team in the CHL most of the year, had 110 points and had only dropped three games in a row twice all year. Even though the Bulls were far from scrubs themselves with a franchise record 102 points, no one in their right mind would have predicted that this series would be going to a seventh game six days ago.

But, it is. A big reason for that has been the gritty leadership and sheer determination of Anaheim Ducks’ draft pick Matt Beleskey. He, along with undrafted OHL goaltender of the year Mike Murphy (who was injured to start the final), have been the story of the series over the past three games.

Even if Belleville drops game seven, a strong argument can be made that it still “won” the series. Not literally, of course, but, when you realize that both teams have already booked their place at the Memorial Cup tournament, psychologically. When the Rangers had the big game four lead and looked like they were about to sweep the series, the Bulls had to feel like they might be pretenders. Now, it’s Kitchener that has the doubts.

With a series that has proved to be so unpredictable, you would be a fool to try and forecast what will happen on Monday night. However, as a long time (and I do mean loooooong time) Bulls fan I would like to point out that historically Belleville is perfect in game sevens of OHL finals—they are 1-0. That’s all the evidence I need!


Tyler King said...

That is what makes junior hockey so fun.

What makes it so unfun is the fact that the series itself means very little because both teams are already in the Memorial Cup, a poorly constructed tournament that is practically constructed to avoid tension and excitement.

I'll cut myself off there, though - any more and I'll just be repeating what Mike Toth's been going on about all season.

sager said...

David Naylor of the The Globe & Mail had a chapter on improving the Mem Cup in in McCown's Law -- please, find a way to have four teams qualify for the damn tournament and do a Frozen Four, one weekend, single elimination.

I would love to attend a Memorial Cup or a RBC Cup, but who has the time to go to Cornwall or Kitchener for 9 days?

(Obviously, I'm rooting for the Bulls to pull this off on Monday.)

Dennis Prouse said...

I can only echo what has already been said -- it is hard to blame the fans for not being excited when the junior hockey poobahs have created such a horrid playoff format. The resistance to change is, of course, financial - The "host team" concept, while being bad for a competitive playoff format, works wonders for ticket sales and organization. The Memorial Cup, in its present format, makes money both for the CHL and the host city, so they have little incentive to change it.