The Haliburton County Huskies may have been knocked out of the OJHL playoffs on April 20 but their inaugural season playing out of Minden’s new arena can be judged a success.
Standing along the boards last Wednesday taking photos and notes for a game report, I couldn’t help but notice the atmosphere around me.
The stands were full of people, some brandishing homemade signs. The upstairs warm viewing area was equally packed. People stood or sat in the lobby to look through the glass. I was joined around the rink by excited kids, and some big kids with a massive air horn.
During the break, there were volunteers everywhere. There were folks at the front door checking people in and others posted at other doors. The people selling the merchandise were doing it on their own time and dime. The ones dispensing the non-alcoholic beverages and snacks were also donating their efforts.
Some in the stands – many in fact – had offered to take players into their homes for the season.
The atmosphere in the arena was loud and very parochial. The crowd, not just from Minden but all points of the Highlands, have clearly gotten behind Paul Wilson’s team.
While playoff hopes were high, it was no small feat to relocate a team from Whitby and have it win its first playoff series against the Trenton Golden Hawks. Would the Cobourg series have been a best of five or best of seven, the Huskies might well be playing on.
The owner and staff frequently commented on visiting other arenas this season and there being far fewer fans at the games. We also heard from the players that there was something special about coming north to cottage country. They became country lads for awhile, enjoying the outdoors, and it allowed this team to forge a unique chemistry.
Does it mean everyone now backs a decision to build a $14-million arena on taxpayers’ backs. No.
Does it mean people have forgotten the County would dearly love to have a public swimming pool? No.
Have some people stopped grumbling about their perception the Huskies got too much of a sweet deal from Minden Hills? No.
However, those same grumblers have to concede that the more than $100,000 the Huskies spent making the former Scouts room their own has been a generous donation to the township’s new arena. Further, they can’t argue that local businesses have benefitted from having the Huskies in town.
It has certainly given many something to do on a weekend in the County. They have embraced the team. As a result, it looks likes the Huskies will be here for many years to come.
In making the announcement in May 2001, the Huskies brass said the move was a “no-brainer” with the County being a hockey and sports town.
“We think it could really be something special for fans, the community and our players,” they said.
Turns out they were right.
And as the township’s seven-year-deal with the Huskies progresses, it stands to make more money off of the club every year to make it all a little more palatable for taxpayers