Hockey: Nipissing draws 3,500 for first exhibition game

It sounds like the curtain-raiser for the new Nipissing Lakers opened to rave reviews. The Lakers lost 3-2 in overtime to Ottawa on a goal by Matt Methot, but it scarcely mattered:
Methot's OT winner ended an amazing night that felt very much like the 2007 Hockeyville game as more than 3,500 fans crammed into Memorial Gardens to watch the new, fast paced brand of hockey." — BayToday

Some teams would need a month of home games to play in front of 3,500 fans. And being compared favourably with a game that featured NHL teams (OK, it was exhibition and OK, it was the New York Islanders and Atlanta Thrashers, but still) is pretty impressive.

Nipissing was credited with a 48-14 edge in shots on goal, for what's it worth. Riley Whitlock made 46 saves for the Gee-Gees.

In a sense it was appropriate a team from Ottawa was Nipissing's first opponent. It calls to mind the junior hockey rivalry that existed between the old North Bay Centennials and the Ottawa 67's and their two long-time coaches, the late Bert Templeton and semi-retired Brian Kilrea.
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  1. Having grown up in the Bay I have a lot of memories of special games played in old Memorial Gardens. As incredible as some of those OHL matches were (The 1994 game-7 win over the Detroit Junior Red Wings was epic. I will always compare sporting atmospheres to the crowd noise of that night.) my favourite memories revolve around those days when rec players could rent the ice for an hour. The ice may have been too brittle in the dead of winter and the spring saw the sheet turn into mush but taking a spin on 'our Garden' ice was always a blast. The thrill of dressing in the visitor’s room and the ever present smell of popcorn made the dream of small town, big-time hockey seem a little closer than my skating stride ever let come to be. However, in an hour’s worth of ice time I could live out my fantasies. The memory of those days and moments still makes me smile.

    The mismanagement (The sale to an owner that didn't have North Bay's best interests at heart.) of the OHL’s Centennials, and their eventual departure to Saginaw, Michigan, ripped a chunk out of the community. I had already left my hometown years before but the news of the loss of the Cents stung me. I imagine that many former Bayites also shared in the city's heartbreak. On occasion I travel through North Bay on my way to visit family. I can honestly say that I always go out of my way to drive past the Gardens.

    A drive past the Garden always leaves me lost in the past for a moment or two. My connections to the city have slowly ebbed away and North Bay is rarely ever a final destination anymore. However, the shear importance of the ole Garden, what it meant to community and me, was a powerful part of my childhood. I can't help but feel a little twinge of pride now that I hear the Gateway City is making the hockey world stand up and take notice again. Ever the same, boys . . . ever the same.

    Cheers North Bay, giv'em hell.

  2. North Bay is back on the hockey map.

  3. The good thing about having a CIS team as opposed to having a junior franchise is there is no possibility the city can have the rug pulled from under it as was the case with the Cents.
    Awesome crowd and from the sounds of it, a pretty solid team as well.
    I wish the Lakers good luck in their inaugural season.