On September 20th, the Ottawa 67's found themselves in as ideal a situation as they could possibly find to start the 2012-13 OHL season. Sure, they were in new stomping grounds at Scotiabank Place, the home venue of the NHL's Senators. And sure, the team was in a rebuilding year.
But on this night, the 67's opened their new campaign with a re-match of the 2012 conference semi-finals against the Barrie Colts with over 11,000 fans in attendance.
Ottawa lost the game 6-4 on a pair of last-minute goals by Barrie, but there was still a huge sense of optimism. It was the team's highest single-game attendance in years. They held in and played an exciting game with an early Eastern Conference favourite. Maybe this rebuilding year wasn't going to be as bad as expected.
After all, there was an NHL lockout preventing the other Ottawa team from interfering with the Barberpoles' ticket sales. Surely, things were looking up.
The team has had its ups and downs since that night's barn burner. A few high turnouts have kept Ottawa in the upper echelon of OHL attendance, and while a number of low turnouts of under 3,000 were a shock to 67's fans, it wasn't all that bad by OHL standards.
They've also had their ups and downs on the ice, but the ups have been few and far between. The team finds itself in last place in the OHL, four points behind 19th-placed Peterborough Petes, with Peterborough holding two games in hand.
To make matters worse for the 67's front office, the NHL lockout has ended.
Not enough of a nightmare for Ottawa's Major Junior squad? The Senators are so apologetic over the lockout, that they're offering fans a number of ridiculous perks to get them back into 'The Bank'.
As mentioned before the season, the Senators launched a season ticket campaign, offering to give away tickets for as low as $15, that's right, less than some tickets to 67's games. Even that wasn't good enough, apparently. Taking offence to the lockout, Sens fans are threatening to give up their season's tickets.
While no other Canadian NHL market seems to have any such problem, the Sens have taken it upon themselves to give away free tickets to the home opener for fans under the age of 14, allowing fans to park for free at the first game, and selling additional tickets to season ticket holders for 50% of the regular price, among other gimmicks.
While the 67's have been forced by the regular tenants to change their parking prices twice this season, the fans of the NHL squad get it for free on opening night.
The 67's probably won't match these ludicrous ploys, and it's hard to blame them. It's not to say that they won't have ticket giveaways or promotions as they always do, but they aren't going to literally beg fans to come back, the way their professional counterpart is currently doing.
The end to this year may be tough to watch for diehard Junior fans in the Nation's Capital, but if this is as bad as it gets, it's not that bad. While the Senators' moves could cause them to fall into the red financially, the 67's are still and will always be a classic OHL franchise.
The Senators and the NHL can hashtag #HockeyIsBack all they want, but real hockey fans in Ottawa know that hockey never left. What left was nationally televised hockey, and a team that has to beg its fans to come back with unheard-of incentives. If nothing else, 67's fans can be proud that their team will never stoop to that level.