Tonight I have watched my very first Quebec Major Hockey League game, and I am in love. Yes, I know some of you are thinking “My god Jason, you live 2 hours from Halifax and have never been to a Halifax Mooseheads game since they joined the QMJHL in 1994?” My answer to that question is a rather simple “no.”
I am a huge hockey fanatic but have only been to one NHL game, and it was a pre-season game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. For those who may not know, the QMJHL is one of the 3 leagues in Canada that make up the Canadian Hockey League or CHL for short. The Mooseheads are in the Maritime Division with all other teams from Atlantic Canada.
The Mooseheads are not just one of the top teams in the QMJHL but also in the CHL. They currently sit as the second ranked junior team in all of Canada. Part of this is that they have a line up that is perhaps the deepest and most talented in all of junior hockey. The teams that make up the CHL provides the young talent that is eligible to be selected at the NHL Entry Draft. The team has provided the NHL the talents of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Alex Tanguay, Brad Marchand, Jody Shelley, Jakub Voráček, Pascal Leclaire, Ladislav Nagy and many others.
As I walked into the game tonight, I asked my friend Greg where the team gift shop was as I wanted to buy some Moosehead swag. We found the store and I was amazed that jerseys were so readily available in my size (as I am a bigger guy) and going against my instincts to not spend the money I bought one. I immediately threw it on over my t-shirt and joined the throng of fans known as “Moose Nation.” Greg snapped up two seats that were 5 or 6 rows from ice level and dead center of the rink. They were perfect seats.
The game itself was amazing and the top stars for the Mooseheads were putting their talent on display. Nathan MacKinnon picked up an assist and so did Jonathan Drouin. I have to tell you that seeing these two kids play together was one of the most amazing moments I have experienced. There is a serious amount of chemistry with them and everytime they stepped foot on the ice, the Mooseheads had scoring chances. Drouin has lights out speed and has one of the quickest first steps I have ever seen. What else can I say about MacKinnon that hasn’t already been said? The guy is immensely talented and is a world class talent. The way he stickhandled through the opposing players gave me flashbacks of Mario Lemieux.
The energy and passion of “Moose Nation” had the roof rocking in the Halifax Metro Centre and I was swept up in it all. I sang along with the crowd when the singer who sang “Oh Canada” stopped singing for all of us to sing, I jumped out of my chair when Martin Frk ( a Detroit Red Wings prospect) played keep away with the entire PEI Rockets team and scored on a slap shot, I rose to my feet and yelled as team captain Trey Lewis took on a larger opposing player in a fight to defend his skilled teammates and I yelled “Holy S**t!!!’ when Nathan MacKinnon skated down the ice and had me seeing the number 66 instead of 22.
If I lived in Halifax, I would be a Mooseheads season ticket holder and there is no doubt in my mind about that. The game, team and fans that filled the arena made me remember something I did not realize I had forgotten………..that I freaking love hockey. With the NHL in a lock out with the NHLPA, I truly believed that I did not miss it and I was fine without it…….but I was lying to myself.
The game ended with a 7 -3 win for the Mooseheads over the PEI Rocket. Martin Frk ended the game with a goal and an assist and was named the first star and I cheered him on as he skated a partial lap to salute us. The Halifax Mooseheads jogged my memory in regards to what is so amazing and great about our game. I jumped to my feet when goals were scored, I yelled at the powerplay to shoot the puck as they had an open shot (Which Frk did and scored….do I get an assist?) and I watched as people young and old, families and couples cheered on the team.
This is what makes hockey the greatest sport in the world and makes me a proud fan. To see these kids playing for the chance to live a dream was an experience I am very glad I was able to watch live in person. I am hooked now you see, I want more Mooseheads hockey…..I have joined the “Moose Nation.”
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