Dundas great Hockeyville host

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

DUNDAS — The smiles told the story at the J.L. Grightmire Arena Tuesday.

Despite foul weather for a pre-game tailgate party, this Hamilton suburb of 30,000 rallied around the fifth annual Kraft Hockeyville to make it a resounding success.

The Senators, who participated in the inaugural Hockeyville game in 2006 against the Canadiens, were excited to play in the cozy arena that was built in 1950 and holds 1,200 people.

“It reminds you of minor hockey back in the day and my hometown (Flesherton) with 700 people,” said winger Chris Neil. “This is a lot bigger. This is fun. It’s great. All the fans have come out.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to see some NHL players and some up-and-coming young guys that are trying to make a name for themselves.”

People couldn’t have been happier to see NHL players up close. Fans waited in the pouring rain for the Senators and Sabres to get off the team buses at the rink. They were swarmed for autographs.

Players noticed the difference at the pre-game skate. Usually the only audience they get is management and reporters who show up to get a few minutes to speak with them.

The stands were jammed at 10 a.m.

“This is a good way to see how fun your job is and how much fun hockey is. This is what it’s all about,” said Buffalo’s Jason Pominville. “You see the kids in the stands cheering and it’s a cool opportunity.

“The most fun part about it is the kids. I don’t know if they didn’t have school (Tuesday), but they’re all here, they’re all by the glass, yelling your name and tapping on the glass. I just think of myself as a kid having that opportunity and I would have been thrilled.”

Dundas received more than one million votes to beat out Bishop’s Falls, N.L., Stanstead, Que., Cranbrook, B.C., and Lawrencetown, N.S., for the right host the game.

By winning Hockeyville, the Dundas rink will receive $100,000 in upgrades.

“It brings back memories, for sure,” said Ottawa blueliner Matt Carkner. “It’s a little bit nicer than Winchester was. It’s definitely nice to get back to this kind of atmosphere.”

THIS ’N’ THAT

Senators Brian Elliott, Ryan Shannon, Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen spent the afternoon visiting local schools ... Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri will be in the lineup at Scotiabank Place Wednesday. It could be his last chance to impress or risk being sent to the AHL’s Marlies ... Former Senators Shawn McEachern and Brad Marsh and Sabres alumni Dave Andreychuk and Danny Gare were in Dundas for three days to visit schools and take part in a pre-game pep rally. McEachern is the new varsity coach and assistant athletics director at the Rivers School — a prep school just outside Boston ... A volunteer: “I’ve seen a lot of people in this building ... I’ve never seen this many.”

AROUND THE BOARDS

Shannon was on the ice Tuesday for the first time since being hit into the boards by the Leafs’ Jay Rosehill in Ottawa’s first exhibition game last week at the Air Canada Centre ... The Northeast held one distinction last year: The only division in the NHL that had four teams — Boston, Montreal, Ottawa and Buffalo — make the playoffs. “It’s always going to be a tough division,” said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. “There are no easy opponents.” Toronto was the only team that missed the playoffs last spring ... Senators C Mike Fisher, troubled by a sore groin, didn’t skate on Tuesday. He likely won’t play against the Leafs ... Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry and Ron MacLean were introduced to the crowd after the first period. “I wish you had a picture of the Queen, but you don’t,” said Cherry. “Maybe next time.”

OFF THE GLASS

A walk through downtown Hamilton doesn’t inspire visitors to think the city could house an NHL team anytime soon. Right now, they just need to worry about keeping their CFL franchise ... NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was roundly booed when he was introduced in the pre-game ceremony. One fan yelled: “Give us a team, Gary.” ... Give the Sabres credit for using G Ryan Miller and playing him the entire game. “We planned on bringing some of our star players so the fans will be able to enjoy that part,” said Ruff. The Sabres draw fans from the Dundas area ... Buffalo D Tyler Myers hit the crossbar behind Ottawa G Robin Lehner on the first shift of the game ... The Senators used the dressing room of the Dundas Junior C Blues.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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