Alex Auld, Steve Montador, Drake Berehowsky, Paul Bissonnette, Kevin Hatcher, Chris Neil, Nick Kypreos and many more were all graduates of the North Bay Centennials. The “Cents” arrived in North Bay via Niagara Falls in 1982 where they enjoyed relative success and popularity until they ultimately moved to Saginaw in 2002.
In 1985-86 and 1986-87 they won the Emms Division Championship. In ’87 they lost the J. Ross Robertson Cup to the Oshawa Generals for the league championship in 7 games. In fact, they lost two series against the Generals that year in 7 games. The two teams battled in a 7 game Super Series for the right to host the 1987 Memorial Cup.
In 1993-94 the Cents won the Hamilton Spectator Trophy as the regular season champions. They went on to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup as league champs and a berth in the Memorial Cup in Laval Quebec. But a depleted North Bay squad couldn’t earn a victory at the tournament to crown a Junior Hockey Champion.
And that’s as close as they would come.
Last night OHL hockey returned to North Bay, this time around as the relocated Battalion from Brampton.
The Battalion opened their 2013-2014 regular season with 9 consecutive games on the road while renovations were being made to the North Bay Memorial Gardens. They finished with a very respectable 5-4-0 record, good for tops in the Central Division and tied for second in the Eastern Conference.
The week leading up to last night’s home opener had fans filled with excitement and anticipation. Players would get stopped on the street by fans wanting to have their picture taken with them. Fans wore Battalion jerseys in droves and there were plenty of Centennial’s jerseys around town as well. Friday night couldn’t come soon enough.
It finally arrived and 4236 excited fans filled the Memorial Gardens. They witnessed a tight checking first period that ended scoreless with the teams getting just 5 shots apiece on goal.
The wind was taken out of the sails for a moment as Chase Hatcher potted his third goal of the season to put the Petes ahead 1-0 just 2:42 into the second frame. But the fans stood as they had reason to celebrate when Nick Paul scored his fifth of the season at 10:16 of the period to even it up at one each. The teams would finish the period tied on the shot clock as well with 6 each for a two period total of 11 each.
The Battalion’s Marcus McIvor would take a penalty at 6:47 of the third and 58 seconds into the powerplay Michael Clarke would notch his second of the season to put the Petes ahead 2-1. The Battalion would get a powerplay of their own 3 minutes later but could not get the equalizer. The Petes would outshoot the Battalion 13 to 8 in the final frame.
Now that the opening night jitters are out of the way the Battalion will give the fans in North Bay what they’ve missed for so long and what they deserve: entertaining OHL hockey and a good hockey team.
The future looks bright, very bright in North Bay.