There is nothing quite like success to breed optimism for the future. That’s especially true in the world of sport, where winning is contagious, and bandwagons fill up quickly with fans eager to enjoy the ride.
That’s certainly the vibe around the North Bay Battalion, a team that’s attracting a growing base of loyal, passionate fans by doing great things on the ice and in the community.
“This is a team coming off two consecutive Central Division championships and having reached the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back years,” said Battalion President Mike Griffin. “This team has 12 players returning who have been through the playoff wars so that bodes well in terms of experience. Hopefully that takes us into a playoff run and another shot at a championship.”
At this level of competitive hockey, Griffin says success always comes back to the quality of scouting, drafting, and coaching. In that regard, the Battalion are lucky to have highly qualified individuals directing the team’s future.
“In all three cases, we have (General Manager) Adam Dennis leading the charge on the drafting side and Ryan Oulahen on the coaching side. They’ve done a tremendous job with this team. They’re just as good as it gets, the two of them are terrific.”
Success on the ice has certainly translated to success in the stands. According to Griffin, team attendance is up 12 percent in the last year, with season ticket subscriptions up 13 percent this year. The Battalion also played to packed houses in the playoffs last year, and with the team off to a solid start again this year, expectations are high once again.
“Our success is a reflection of the quality of the team on the ice,” he said. “The expectations of fans are they’re going to see a great season again. The brand of hockey we play is definitely worth watching.”
While Griffin said everybody suiting up in a Battalion uniform this year is worth coming to see, he suggests there are a couple players with bright futures who fans should definitely want to see before their inevitable trip to the NHL.
“One of those players is Dom DiVincentiis, who was named the OHL Goaltender of the
Year last year. He’s an exceptional young man and is already signed by the Winnipeg Jets. He’s at the top of the list of goaltenders in the league and probably one of the top goaltenders in the country. On defense we have Ty Nelson, a signed player with the Seattle Kraken, who’s a crowd favourite. He’s a franchise record breaker in terms of goals, assists and points by a Battalion defencemen. He’s a dynamic player in terms of his skill set. He can pass the puck as well as many NHL players, and he shoots the puck like a cannon. He’s a great team leader.”
While the Battalion has great leaders on the ice, it’s the leadership team players are showing off the ice that is winning the hearts of local hockey fans. For example, Battalion player Dayln Wakely was named CHL Humanitarian of the Year in June for his work on Wake’s Sake, a charitable initiative that sees Wakely and fellow players volunteering at the Gathering Place kitchen to help service North Bay’s homeless and low-income populations. Additionally, Ty Nelson recently launched Ty’s Troops in association with Community Living to assist adults living with disabilities.
“Being in the community has been extremely important to us and we realized we missed a lot during Covid,” said Griffin. “We really have a responsibility to get things back to where we had them a few years ago.”
Ultimately, success for the North Bay Battalion is measured on the ice, and Griffin says today’s fans are being exposed to an exceptional brand of hockey when compared to the way the game used to be played.
“I think anyone 30 years ago watching the old trap style hockey that the New Jersey Devils played while winning Stanley Cups would never have imagined the change and transition in the game. The quality of skill, the quality of the skating level. Back in the old days if you had five guys that could skate well you were going to have a good season. Now every single player out there can skate. They can all pass the puck. They can handle passes. It’s a whole different game to watch and fans are coming back because they find it exciting.”
For more information or to buy your tickets visit the team website.