Few seasons moving forward will be as important to the Belleville Bulls as the 2012-2013 season will be. Not only on the ice where Belleville should dress one of their most competitive line ups in a few years, and packaged along with easily their best draft, top to bottom in years, the on ice product should be fine for a while. Along with some others things, this team needs to win to help in ensure the Bulls continue to call Belleville home past 2013-2014 when their lease expires at the Yardman.
Frankly its time for a new barn, or at least a real plan for a new barn. Mayor Neil Ellis and his staff have said the goal has been to work the Bulls in to the 2017 city plan, only after things like a new fire station, police station, some bridge work and other stuff I'm sure I missed. Those things are all important to the City moving forward, but so are the Bulls. A Casino, you would have to think would help ease the burden on the city coffers (but that's a different story).Few things put the "Friendly City" on the map Nationally in a positive way, the way the Bulls do. When you watch NHL games on both Canadian and American television when former Belleville Bulls players like Jason Spezza, Matt Stajan orEric Tangradi and Cody McCormick are playing a lot of time it mentions Belleville, thanks to their time with the Bulls. What about internationally with players like Malcolm Subban, and Coach Burnett being part of the Hockey Canada Program, or former players like Mike Murphy and Branko Radivojevic now playing in the KHL. Lets not forget Social Media outlets where The Team, current and former players have nice followings on Facebook and Twitter and are promoting the city with out really trying. This year The Medigas Celebrity Classic golf tournament was loaded with Bulls from the 2008 Memorial Cup Team, including the Coaching staff, PK Subban, Shawn Matthias, Tangradi and Matt Beleskey, showing players want to come back and give back to the city. Former Bulls also move back start families and continue to contribute to the City by being policemen, teachers, real estate agents, coach's and small business owners, they are everywhere in the community.
Some folks are under the impression that the recent upgrades at the Qunite Sports & Wellness Centre included the Yardman, but it didn't. At one time when Global use to carry the OHL Game of the Week the Bulls were voted to have the Best Fans in the OHL. The last few years have been a different story, not to say the Bulls don't have great fans, they do, its just been tough to get 3000+ together 2 times a week and when you see more green then Black and Gold in the stands something is wrong. Since this ownership group has taken over, some in the city have turned cold towards the Bulls. I'm not 100% sure why. Majority owner Gord Simmonds in my opinion has been fair and realistic when dealing with city staff. He has said from day one, that the plan is to keep the Bulls in Belleville, but he also said he couldn't and wouldn't if it meant he was losing money year after year, for me that's fair. I've heard people say "Why do we need a new rink, when we can't fill the one we have ?" Its not about more seats, its about better quality of seats, Some sight lines at the Yardman are brutal, if you sit in the 1st few rows in any of the corner sections you can't see much more then what's directly in front of you. The Yardman has two luxury suites that are nice, but are located at the south end of the rink. How much more income could mid ice boxes fetch? What about food? Sure you can get a hotdog or pizza slice, but the closest restaurant is a Subway, that all CHL fans love. But its tough to relax and sit down for a nice meal.
Where the Yardman is located is right off the 401 perfect for out of town teams and fans to find, but 90% of business that would benefit from the Bulls are on the next exit, not to say the Bulls don't help restaurants, hotels and other business' in the city, they do big time, but an onsite restaurant/bar would serve the team and the fans better. Right now the Yardman is located just past the entrance of the City's Industrial Park not much of night life or a showcase of Belleville, unless you are looking for a job.
Some times the fans will blame Coach Burnett for the reason that they stay away, they don't like his approach or him. Not every fan will agree with every move the Coach or GM's make thats part of the business, but Bulls fan should consider themselves lucky to have Mr Burnett running the ship. Coach Burnett is the longest continuous serving Coach in Bulls history. His record speaks for it self, he is a winner at the OHL and AHL level and with Hockey Canada. Any time you have a coach with Over 1000 games and 500 wins in the best development league in the World, and not to mention NHL experience you have to be happy. I personally don't care if Coach Burnett is Mr Personality or not, as long as he keeps up the fine work he has done here for the past 8 years. This is where this years club comes in, when the Bulls are winning the Yardman can be a full and loud barn. The #MoreCowbell playoff marketing campaign, for my money is the best in crowd promotion the Bulls have ever done. For this team to remain relevant in the minds of citizens, city council, and casual fans they need to win bottom line. Its easier to sell tickets when your winning. If the team is winning and tickets are being sold then its easier for Mr Simmonds to decide if its worth resigning a lease as he waits for city council to gets their ducks in order. If we are seeing 3000+ on a regular bases that means the team is winning. A winning team, that's getting national exposure is also easier for city council to support.
We, as in fans of the Belleville Bulls need this team this year to really set the bar and there is no reason to think they cant with the likes of the Subban's, Brendan Gaunce, Daniil Zharkov, and Brady Austinreturning and players like Niki Petti, Chad Heffernan and Daniel De Sousa joining the mix, on paper the Bulls look like they could be a top team in the OHL's eastern conference. So the question is are they good enough to help this team stay here long term, I think so, lets hope they can get Mr. Simmonds, City Council and 3000+ to think so. If we help them by showing up being loud and cheering them on, they help us by putting our great city on the Map in a positive way that everyone can be proud of.