The Broncos departed from Prince George to Edmonton this morning after packing up their gear at the rink fresh off a 6-1 win over the Cougars the night before. They weren't alone. The Calgary Hitmen were also underneath the stands of the CN Center getting organized for their game against the Cougars which happened earlier this evening (5-3 Hitmen win).
It was strange to share the same space with another WHL team as friends from each team talked and had some laughs. It also gave Hitmen players Kyle Bortis and Paul Postma a chance to talk to their old 'mates in a relaxed environment.
The Cougars were also getting ready for their pre-game skate. It felt like one of those weekend tournaments with teams all over the place.
It was great to chat with Hitmen play-by-play broadcaster Brad Curle the night before. Curly has always been one of my favorites. He was the Hurricanes play-by-play man when I was going to College in Lethbridge. He's one of the best out there.
The Broncos made their way through some morning rain into Jasper for about an hour stop for lunch and a quick look around. Great scenery highlighted the day when the sunshine broke through the clouds around the Alberta/BC border. Simply gorgeous.
Bus driver Dan had to show some patience as a herd of mountain sheep made the highway their home just outside of Jasper. With the sheep out of the way, the hammer was down for Edmonton.
Winning on the road into an off-day is enjoyable for everyone. The mood is always relaxed and the guys seem to enjoy themselves as they occupy their time in the back with who knows what.
The team arrived in Edmonton just before 7pm for supper. After that it was a hop, skip and a jump over Rexall Place to unload the bus and hang up the gear. The job took a little longer than usual due to the guys wanting to get out on the ice surface and gaze around to check out the surroundings of an NHL building. I've been to Rexall probably six or seven times but this was different. Seeing the the rink from ice-level and from the benches is always a highlight. It doesn't matter how many NHL rinks you've been to, each one has it's own uniqueness and character.
The old Northlands Collesium may be dated but it's a special place stuffed with great hockey memories and moments which bring goosebumps. Like Gretzky's 50 goals in 39 games in the 1981-82 season. Or more recently during the 2006 playoffs when the the fans took over Oh Canada in a show of Canadian and hockey pride.
Monday afternoon's game will also be a home game of sorts for Matt Tassone, Phil Gervais and Spencer McAvoy. The three from the Edmonton area will have a ton of support at the game from friends and family.
A win would give the Broncos an almost unimaginable 6-2 finish to their eight straight games on the road to begin the campaign. With wins in tough places like Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Kamloops and Lethbridge, the team has a chance to close off on a high note.
One last thought. Being away for a week I haven't been able to judge if fans back home are getting excited for the season and our home opener yet or not. Of course Ryan Switzer has a pulse on the situation at home and tells me people are jacked but I personally haven't heard it.
Let's hope our fans come and show their support for this upcoming five game homestand. Counting pre-season, it's been 14 straight games on the road. It's time the boys hear some encouragement from their hometown fans. Let's hear you Friday.
One more thing, Happy Thanksgiving!