Ottawa loves its hockey

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

Okay, so the CHL's Top Prospects Game last Wednesday didn't turn into the rip-roarin' success everybody hoped it would be.

And it's true only some 6,000 souls ventured to the Scotia Bank Place to witness an exhibition that has essentially become a made-for-TV event.

But now we're hearing suggestive rumblings that Ottawa's lack of mass appeal for this annual love-in for Don Cherry and Bobby Orr will somehow hinder this city's bid to host the 2009 world junior hockey championships. That won't be the case.

Ottawa's track record in issues relating to hockey that matters is well known. And that's the key -- hockey that matters.

The Senators are chasing a Stanley Cup and tickets to their remaining home games are becoming a scarce commodity.

Tournaments like the world juniors and the Memorial Cup also qualify as well as all the regular season and playoff games involving the 67's in the OHL, the Olympiques in the QMJHL, and the various Central Junior clubs in the city and throughout the Valley.

Not to forget the big Christmas-break tournaments like the Bell Capital Cup and the Kiwanis midget event in Gatineau.

All these events have captured the city's attention and the community has rallied behind them, facts no selection committee could possibly ignore.

The last time Ottawa tried to land the world juniors, over 18,000 fans plunked $25 deposits for tickets, an overwhelming response that displayed the support this city would lend to such an event.

As for the Top Prospects Game, it's a great idea and provides the CHL a chance to display the plethora of talented draft-eligible players under its umbrella. But in no way can this game be described as hockey that matters, except for the players and their parents.

NHL scouts that normally attend usually leave disappointed, as the game often turns into a rather benign display where no more than a handful of the young hopefuls show any sign of jam or pluck. As usual, the hype surrounding the presence of Cherry and Orr behind the bench takes centre stage.

Fans in Ottawa have been criticized in the past for being fickle in their support for amateur sports and pro teams. But when it comes to hockey that matters, there is no denying that the city's sports fans are among the best in the country.

This is something the folks at Hockey Canada and the CHL, who determine the winning entry among the places that bid for the world juniors, are well aware.

And last Wednesday's no-shows at the prospects exhibition won't be a factor when the big decision is made.

OLYMPIQUE OVERSIGHT: It should be noted that Gatineau coach Benoit Groulx was not invited to participate as an assistant coach of one of the prospects' teams Wednesday. All he's done in his six years with the 'Piques is guide the club to a pair of league championships and appearances at the Memorial Cup. At the very least, somebody at the CHL office should have extended a courtesy call to ask if he'd stand behind one of the benches as an assistant. As it turned out, the only representation the Olympiques had came from player injury replacement Claude Giroux, and mascot Hully.

THIS AND THAT: Four Kingston Frontenacs -- Ben Shutron, Bobby Hughes, Chris Stewart and Cory Emmerton -- played in Wednesday's game. Kingston has some great young talent and looks poised to make a run for an OHL title next season ... Ex-67's F Jakub Petruzalek returned from the Czech elite league and is playing for the Barrie Colts. He's scored twice with seven points in his first five games.

IN THE CREASE: The CJHL's Pembroke Lumber Kings have slipped from top spot to third in the national rankings. The Kings lost their fifth game of the season Tuesday 3-2 against Nepean ... 67's trainer Brian Patafie had his head shaved to promote the Shave For A Cure fundraiser, held during Friday's game against the Petes. G Danny Battochio served as Patafie's barber. Donations were accepted at the game for pediatric cancer research.

BARRE.CAMPBELL@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


Videos

Photos