Kypreos tells Battalion players 'Don't screw it up, be humble'Saturday, October 12, 2013 by: Kate AdamsTypically a line for anything will set a tone of great discord for people but not last night in North Bay, because this was a special Friday night like no other, this was the night OHL hockey officially returned to HockeyVille.
The vibe in the line ups that snaked around Memorial Gardens from all entrances was electric with fans greeting each other with warmth that felt like Christmas morning. But not everyone was happy Brampton Resident and first season ticket holder for the Brampton Battalion, Ian Munroe, entered the Gardens with a heavy heart knowing exactly how the residents of North Bay felt 11 years ago when the Cents left the Bay. He said Friday marked the passing of the torch as his beloved team moved on to their new home and hockey as he has known it for the past 15 years will be forever changed.
“I'm trying to keep the emotion out of my face and voice ... but boy watching these guys go it was horrible,” Munroe tells BayToday.
“For 15 years I've looked up to these guys they play hard -- I've seen them play through sickness, I've seen them play through injury these guys are heart and soul hockey. Stan Butler won't accept anything less.”
“It's tough watching them play somewhere else but I'm glad they're here in North Bay because a town that’s going to accept them and embrace them any better I don't think they’d be able to find.”
A joyful Mayor Al McDonald completely identified with Munroe and says while the city rallied in support of the new team delivering a sold out opening night they must continue that support into the future.
“March 26, 2002 …I was the last one to leave the building and I remember the how I felt and it breaks our heart that we lost our team that we cheered for 20 years, but we understand business happens and you have to make decisions but here we are 11 and 1/2 years later,” he says.
“I never stop believing that we would have an OHL team back in our city and just to be able to sell 2000 seasons tickets in six days, not only is a credit to the committee that made that happen, but to the community that really jumped on board”
“It's like our ski hill, like our waterfront, it's like our trails, it's like our Capitol Center if we don't support it we’ll lose it,” He states.
“It doesn't matter if it's a hockey team, a theater; a ski hill we have to support the things that we really want in our community and I think what we're seeing tonight is great support. But it's important that we continue to support all these different venues and events well into the years ahead of us or we're going to lose them.”
OHL Commissioner David Branch, who rode the rollercoaster of teams lost and gained with North Bay, was genuinely pleased with the return of OHL Hockey to the city.
“Well it's been a real, real journey without question and you know the destination couldn't have been better now when you see what's happened here this evening,” he tells BayToday.
“Go back 12 or 13 years ago when the league was faced with a decision that it really didn't want to see occur but had no choice, we've been fortunate in having a great franchise in Saginaw, but we also knew what a great community, hockey community, fans and the like in North Bay so to have the opportunity to come back that has been really special.”
“And you know what come back with a model franchise when you look at the work that Scott Abbot as owner has done over the years not only with the battalion but our league … Stan Butler is a leader among his peers, is one of the top coaches and managers, so you put that altogether and it's a win-win model the Battalion with the community of North Bay so we're really excited and really happy and really pleased.”
He says he is not in a position to advise the community as how not to get back on the ride again he did reflect on the issue for a moment.
“I'm not sure that it would be fair to necessarily you know express any specific views or opinions about that area other than be yourself. Because you are a great hockey community, you are passionate, you are Canadian and I mean you know those are elements that only we in this great country enjoy and North Bay typifies everything that is good about our Great game”
Former North Bay Centennial, member of the Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers and current Rogers Sportsnet personality Nick Kypreos says attending the home open brings his life and career around full circle.
“Being back here is just a great, great feeling for me,” he states.
“To think that you know it played such an important part of my life in my … growing up to be a man, those are critical years and you know from the first time ever talking to Bert Templeton to leaving as an overage, I look at those 3 1/2 four years up here as critical components on who the person I am today it helped shape me, it helped form me, it helped me become a man.”
“And to be out there tonight 11 years after the fact that they lost their team and now it's back for me is extra special because I walk around the building and I can't go five seconds without seeing a familiar face and share in some great stories and to me these people deserve nothing but the best and the OHL and CHL is the best hockey in the world for these kids.”
He also notes that it isn’t just about being on the ice when you are a member of an OHL time in North Bay it is also about being a community leader.
“Just from the few people that I’ve talk to that are coming from Brampton I can't stress enough how they're going from something that didn’t really seem like it should and you know Junior hockey is about community it's about people. that looked these guys as heroes and they just didn't have that in Brampton, and they never we are going to have that in Brampton and now they go from being really almost invisible in Brampton to being real hockey heroes in this community.”
“And for me that was a great experience to be on the front page every game in the North Bay Nugget or to lead Drew's 6:30 sports show, to me that is really what junior hockey is all about now these guys can really appreciate junior hockey in Canada the way it should be.”
But having that recognition comes with responsibility and Kypreos warns the players not to get caught up in themselves.
“Well again it's like a pendulum swinging totally the other way they go from being anonymous in Brampton to now being front-line people in the community and don't take it for granted and don't consider it a right. It's a privilege and it's an honour,” he states.
“Don't screw it up, be humble, go around and meet people and show them that you're just like anybody else, you love again and you are fortunate enough to play at a high-level. Don't think that it's your birth right to do that think of it as a privilege and honour every day.”