Just an exhibition game?
Don’t tell that to the Manitoba Moose and Hamilton Bulldogs, who will be squaring off in a so-called “exhibition game” here Friday night.
The Moose and Bulldogs, who play in the North Division of the American Hockey League, still are in the process of finalizing their rosters for the start of the season, which begins Oct. 13 for the Moose and Oct. 15 for the Bulldogs.
“It’ll be very intense,” said Fort High co-athletic director Shane Bliss, who is helping organize the game, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena.
Tickets cost $20 each in advance and $25 at the door, with proceeds being split between the Muskie Athletic Association and the Muskie Touchdown Booster Club.
“They have only two exhibition games . . . so they have to come here and put it all out there because if they want a job for this winter, they don’t have a lot of time to prove themselves,” noted Bliss.
Both teams will travel to Dryden for another game the following day.
Given the NHL lockout, the AHL subsequently has become the premier league for professional hockey in North America. As well, an influx of NHL players is making training camps and exhibition games much more competitive than in past years.
The Moose are just one of the 28 AHL teams that have some tough decisions to make.
“There’s a lot of hockey players there that have been playing in the NHL that are looking for places to work this year, so its going to make the competition for the Moose spots really intense,” said Bliss.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Mike Keane, a 17-year NHL veteran and winner of three Stanley Cups with Montreal, Colorado, and Dallas, is very interested in joining the Moose this season, who are affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks.
But there are circumstances that may prevent that—at least for now.
The AHL has a veteran rule, which only allows their clubs to dress five veteran players (those with more than 260 games at the AHL, IHL, or NHL level) and one exempt player (anyone with more than 450 games in the AHL).
The Moose already have nine veteran players on their squad, but those rules are based on a nightly basis so Keane and Tyler Bouck, a former Moose players who is fast becoming a steady NHL’er, along with other NHL players, may soon see some ice time.
Some key names in the Moose lineup for Friday night’s game includes players like goalie Alex Auld, forwards Jason King and Ryan Kesler, and defenceman Nolan Baumgartner, who all saw lengthy stints with the Canucks last season.
And there is another layer of uniqueness to this hockey onion.
This will be the first time the two teams have met since last year’s playoffs, where the first-place Bulldogs were stretched to the limit by the sixth-seeded Moose before pulling out a 3-2 win in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals.
The Bulldogs, who are affiliated with the Montreal Canadians, went on to drop a thrilling Calder Cup final in seven games to the Houston Aeros.
“People are going to see excellent hockey players. They are going to see players that have been in the NHL and hockey players that will be in the NHL,” said Bliss.
“I mean, what a great opportunity to see such talent—and to see it right here in town,” he stressed.
Tickets for the game, which might become an annual affair depending on how this year’s turnout is, are still available at La Place Rendez-Vous, the Memorial Sports Centre, Skates & Blades, Taggs, the Super 8 Motel, FFHS, and Tompkins Hardware in Emo.
“We want to sell it out,” said Bliss. “We for sure want to sell it out.”
There will be raffles held during the game while Muskie “discount cards”—redeemable at 12 local businesses until May 31, 2005—also will be available there for $30 each.
Here are the latest team roster for the two teams:
< *c>Manitoba Moose
Forwards—Tim Smith, Justin Morrison, Jeff Heerema, Ryan Kesler, Peter Sarno, Nathan Smith, Jimmy Roy, Jesse Schultz, Brandon Nolan, Chanse Fitzpatrick, Jason King, Lee Goren, Wade Brookbank, and Alexandre Burrows
Defencemen—Kevin Bieksa, Tomas Mojzis, Joe DiPenta, Kent Huskins, Nolan Baumgartner, Nick Naumenko, Johnathan Aitken, and Kirill Koltsov
Goalies—Wade Flaherty, Rob McVicar, and Alex Auld
< *c>Hamilton Bulldogs
Forwards—Benjamin Carpentier, Benoit Dusablon, Jonathan Ferland, Chris Higgins, Raitis Ivanans, Andrei Kostitsyn, Michael Lambert, Christian Larrivee, Corey Locke, Derick Martin, Antti Miettinen, Duncan Milroy, Gavin Morgan, Eric Normandin, Steve Ott, Tomas Plekanec, Marco Rosa, Marc-Andre Thinel, and Cory Urquhart
Defensemen—Andrew Archer, Jean-Philippe Cote, Trevor Daley, Dan Jancevski, Jonathan Jolette, Derick Martin, Philippe Plante, James Sanford, Matt Shasby, and Gary Zinck
Goalies—Yann Danis, Dan Ellis, and Olivier Michaud
Just an exhibition game?