25 Apr

Random Thoughts – Curse of the Pen Center, Painful Defeats and More

1. In their third year of a major rebuild, the IceDogs had seemingly put all the pieces together for a championship run. After solidifying their roster with some late-season rentals, they had capped off a wildly successful regular season by winning their division and finishing second in the East. In the first round of the playoffs, they breezed through North Bay like a hot knife through butter, then took the first two games at home of their second-round series against Oshawa. Everything appeared to be going according to plan.

Then something happened.

Getting into the playoff spirit, as they normally do at this time of year, the team organized fan bus trips to Oshawa for Games 3 and 4. Except that instead of leaving from a central location such as the Meridian Center or the Jack, as they had done in past years, or from Fairview Mall, conveniently located just off the QEW, they made fans go all the way out to the Pen Center, in the opposite direction of where they were traveling and in the extreme south end of the city. To quote one loyal reader, “That’s just stupid.”

Indeed.

Those loyal supporters who were able and/or willing to make the artificially and unnecessarily long trek out there saw their team drop both games in Oshawa. Then back home, before a nearly full house in Game 5, the IceDogs lost again, setting up a do-or-die Game 6 in Oshawa.

On short notice, the team organized another fan bus trip. Which was leaving, once again, from the Pen Center.

The rest, as they say, is history. This would-be Memorial Cup contender saw its season end having won only one more playoff game than they did a year earlier when they weren’t expected to make much noise in the postseason. Ouch.

Worse yet, they won’t get another chance next year with this group as many of the players will be moving on to bigger and better things in the world of pro hockey. One of those departing rent-a-players was a veteran they acquired from the same Oshawa team that put a premature end to their title run in exchange for a bushel of draft picks. Talk about dressing an open wound with salt.

Maybe it won’t quite end up like the Curse of the Bambino, but the Curse of the Pen Center might end up haunting this team for a couple of years down the road.

2. The Game 6 loss in Oshawa marked the end of overage goaltender Stephen Dhillon’s junior career. I had seen how, with playing time after sitting out much of his first two years, Dhillon had developed from a raw prospect who looked like a fish out of water into one of the best and most dependable goaltenders in junior hockey. Best of luck to him as he moves on and if there’s a pro team looking for a potential late bloomer to take a flier on, Dhillon might be your man.

3. Let the record reflect that this is the first season post-defection in which I did not attend a single IceDogs game at home or on the road.

4. Methinks the IceDogs are, shall we say, falling into the trap of taking their customers’ patronage a little too much for granted. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s the feeling I get. They do have a solid base of fans who will jump through their hoops and do it with a smile, but unlike the Leafs, there’s not enough of them to pay the bills.

5. I have no real dog in the fight, but I’m sorry for those in this part of the world grieving the Leafs’ playoff loss to Boston. Again. I cannot, however, express the same sentiments about the loss the team in my former home city recently experienced. As I posted publicly on social media, “Can I get a ‘Let’s Go Blues’”?

6. I find it interesting how some of those in my former home city who are speaking out against the recent $12 million subsidy grocery giant Loblaws got from the feds don’t seem to have a problem with the annual stipend of $14.1 million Mark Chipman hoovers out of their wallets to fund the purchase and operation of the former Atlanta Thrashers franchise.

7. Let the record reflect that the team generally managed by Don Waddell, perhaps the worst living NHL general manager past or present, has advanced farther in the Stanley Cup playoffs than the team generally managed by Mark Chipman.

8. While talking to a fellow cyclist at the Welland Transit Terminal yesterday and telling him about my bus-bike trips across the river, he asked, “I guess you need ID for that?” Yeah, I think CBP might want to see some ID when you go through the border crossing. Maybe. Best to be on the safe side and bring it just in case. Better to be safe than sorry.