Whether you follow the Halifax Mooseheads closely or not, you would have to agree the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise has been given lots of positive coverage during this 2022-23 season.
In the past week alone, the club received glowing headlines in the provincial media.
Ever since the Moose and Quebec Remparts reached the league finals, two sports section headings put the puck in the back of the net.
“Final too close to call” topped a Willy Palov story in The Chronicle Herald a week ago today. In the following issue, Willy’s work was topped by this headline: “Final is ‘the creme de la creme’”.
Teams across our province, regardless of the sport or calibre of play, would die to get such treatment in advance of a championship event.
I applaud the coverage because, for several years now, I’ve considered the Mooseheads our province’s best franchise ever. And, next season, the organization will be marking its 30th year. No Nova Scotia team ever lasted close to that longevity.
As for the current series, the Mooseheads and Remparts earned that kind of attention by their play throughout the season. This is one of those title showdowns that league administrators welcome with open arms.
Getting such rave notice is what draws crowds to arenas when a league crown is up for grabs. And, wow, Halifax and Quebec have the perfect locations to set attendance records during this matchup.
The Videotron Centre in Quebec City can put over 18,000 fans into the seats. That franchise already established a new record in the semifinals against the Gatineau Olympiques when 17,911 spectators filled the stands.
And Nova Scotians certainly know the attendance figures at Mooseheads games in Scotiabank Centre. The Halifax facility can handle just under 10,600 people for a hockey game.
If this best-of-seven stretches to the limit, it’s pretty much a guarantee the round will draw all-time crowd numbers.
The series everybody wanted opened in Quebec on the weekend with games three and four in downtown Halifax this week.
No one was in a happier frame of mind than Halifax general manager Cam Russell, the Cole Harbour native who has done a remarkable job building this club into another winner. As a result, the Moose will have a great chance of winning the league and moving on to another Memorial Cup tournament.
No wonder Cam is optimistic. The Mooseheads and Remparts met just twice during the regular season and the Nova Scotia team took both contests.
So it’s not surprising that the former Chicago Blackhawks defenceman made this comment: “It’s pretty exciting right now. This is the third time we’ve been in the finals in the last 10 years so we’re pretty proud of that. We’re really looking forward to the series. It’s a great matchup and I think the fans are going to love it.”
And there’s that big prize that goes to the winning team: a trip to the Memorial Cup, a junior hockey championship that has been contested for just over 100 years.
The Mooseheads, of course, are no strangers to the Memorial Cup.
They got there in 2013 and won the championship game against the Portland Winterhawks. They were also there in 2019.
And, of course, fans in Pictou County look back with pleasure to 1962 when the county’s own Lowell MacDonald of Thorburn was a champion with the Hamilton Red Wings. His teammates included Paul Henderson, Wayne Rivers and Pit Martin. Holy cow, that was 61 years ago.
The Maritime-based clubs in the Quebec circuit have been doing a great job holding their own at the national tournament.
The Saint John Sea Dogs are the defending champions after winning last year. They also won in 2011. The Acadie-Bathurst Titan took the top rung in 2016. The Quebec team last won in 2006.
I was glad to see Willy Palov’s recent article reminding us of the classic 2012 playoff meeting between the Mooseheads and Remparts. That was at the Quebec Colisee when Moose captain Cameron Critchlow fired all four of Halifax’s regulation goals and rookie Jonathan Drouin wrapped things up in overtime with his memorable goal.
Let’s not forget, when Halifax won the Memorial Cup a decade ago, Nova Scotia hockey had what was arguably the greatest achievement in the province’s history.
Remember the tremendous record the team had that season – 77 wins in 89 games?
Remember the many sellout crowds of 10,000 at the Halifax Metro Centre, the best public support any Nova Scotia hockey club ever received?
Remember how Moosemania spread across the province like a wildfire, drawing many spectators from around Nova Scotia?
Remember that being the team headlined by Nathan MacKinnon, who joined his Cole Harbour pal Sidney Crosby in the NHL?
Heck, remember how there were so many excited Nova Scotians that we even talked about the fact it was 200 years since a group of boys at King’s College School played hockey on Long Pond in Windsor?
Remember how that Moosehead championship had us bragging about other Nova Scotia teams? Teams like the province’s challenges for the Stanley Cup, by the Halifax Crescents in 1900 and the New Glasgow Cubs six years later.
Remember how the Memorial Cup win had coffee shop customers chatting proudly about the Halifax Wolverines winning the Allan Cup in 1934-35 with Pictou County’s Daddy Bubar playing goal?
And let’s never forget the Halifax Atlantics and their back-to-back Canadian major senior hockey crowns in 1952-53 and 1953-54. Or the Calder Cup championships won by the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in 1971-72, 1975-76 and 1976-77.
We remember players like Al MacNeil and Parker MacDonald to Pictou County’s Jon Sim and Colin White, to the three present NHL stars from metro, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Brad Marchand, and many others in between.
Yes, Nova Scotia has a fine hockey history, and these 2022-23 Mooseheads, win or lose from here, will never be forgotten.
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