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Battalion creating unprecedented community spirit

Fans celebrate a goal in Wednesday's elimination game. PHOTO BY CHRIS DAWSON. The Mayor of North Bay is going shopping.

Fans celebrate a goal in Wednesday's elimination game.  PHOTO BY CHRIS DAWSON. 

The Mayor of North Bay is going shopping.

Al McDonald is heading to the Escape Movement store in Northgate Square to pick up a pair of T-Shirts to go along with a Battalion Jersey that he will be sending to the Oshawa Mayor who will wear the Green jersey at the next Oshawa City Council meeting. 

It was part of a side bet made between the two mayors over the Eastern Conference Championships. 

“He’s been a great sport and he, in fact, asked me to take the bet and I wouldn’t shy away,” said McDonald on Thursday afternoon. 

“We are sending a jersey and 2 escape movement t-shirts to promote a local company in Oshawa.  I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures, he promised to send pictures of him wearing the Battalion jersey. It is just the friendly competition between the 2 centres.  It’s a small city on Northern Ontario against a big southern Ontario and we brought a lot of positive attention to our community.”

In fact, the Battalion season may not have began picture perfect, but the image has certainly changed. 

The Battalion are the talk of the town as the franchise will be playing in its 2nd ever OHL final which will begin in early May once the Western Conference finals are settled between the Guelph Storm and the Erie Otters. 

Mayor Al believes the Battalion run has created community spirit even stronger than back in 2007 when the community rallied together to win the Hockeyville title in 2007. 

“If you think about it, we don’t even have one event even once a year where we can attract 4,000 people - Summer in the Park may be the only one - and here’s a case where the Battalion bring 4,000 people to Memorial Gardens twice a week, and it really became the community centre that it is,” said McDonald.  

“The building is 60 years old, it needed upgrades to be brought up to date and now it’s the place to be seen where people have been rallying around the hockey team, but more so I think they have been rallying around the community.  You know we have been facing the ONTC, the economy is slow, what’s happened with the federal government, the cutbacks and then the Battalion show up and we really realized what it meant to cheer for our city and the good will that the players and the organization has brought to our community has really sparked this positive energy.”

McDonald hopes the success of the Battalion will help put the Gardens cost overrun on the back burner; if it hasn’t already. 

McDonald says building a city is a lot of work and it needs balance.

“If you look at our city, not everybody goes to the library but the library is important,” he said. 

“Not everybody uses Transit but Transit is important.  You look at the waterfront, not everyone uses the waterfront but it’s a jewel for us.  Not everyone uses the Kate Pace Way, not everyone goes to the Ski hill, not everybody is a hockey fan but all those pieces put together makes a wonderful community.   So if you look at a building that’s 60 years old and we spent money on it that’s going to last us another 50 years, it’s money well spent.”  

He hopes the community spirit will continue to grow in the OHL finals.

“I think i’m excited seeing young and old giving high-fives, talking in the coffee shops, going on the social media, talking to the media, selling out games -  we don’t get a sellout in anything in North Bay and now if you don’t get your tickets days in advance you don’t get a ticket to the game so from my perspective I love the city so much and I just want to see it do well and the Battalion are kind of the face of our city right across the province and right across the country since we are down to only basically 6 teams left so I am extremely proud.”