Thursday, January 12, 2006
Belleville Hosts Bell All Star Game 2006
Jack Miller, the voice of the Belleville Bulls, opened the ceremony to introduce the OHL All Star roster. He described himself as “a bit of a packrat”, and unfolded a copy of the All Star program from 1983, the last time the All Star game was played in Belleville.
Most of those present at the ceremony were in awe as he read the names from the roster of that game: Steve Yzerman, Doug Gilmour, Al Bester, Pat Verbeek, Al MacInnis, Joe Cirella, John Van Biesbrouck, Steve Driscoll, Kirk Muller, and a few other future NHL players. Also on the ice that year were two Belleville Bulls: Dunc McIntyre and Dan Quinn.
For Matt “Bud” Kelly, a current Belleville Bull, being named to the All Star squad this year is a great honour. “When Jack read those names from the 1983 team, it was a real shock to me. I really wasn’t expecting this.” Kelly has earned his way onto the squad with his gritty play throughout the year. And he is really looking forward to the opportunity to representing his home city at the game.
Kevin Lalande was named to the team for his stellar play between the pipes for the Bulls. Last Wednesday night, he stoned the highly rated Peterborough Petes, stealing a win at the Sports Centre. Lalande, a Calgary Flames draft pick, will be playing in his second all star game. He played for the Hawksbury team in their Junior “A” game in Nepean. “It was great to get the two points against the Petes”, he told me. “And it will be amazing to play in the Bell All Star Game.”
Former Wellington Duke Dan Lacosta will also be tending the twine for the Eastern Conference All Stars. Lacosta is enjoying his finest year in the OHL with the Barrie Colts, at or near the top in all of the goalie categories.
Dave Branch, the Commissioner of the Canadian Hockey League, indicated the league was pleased to see the game played in Belleville. “It is a token of our appreciation to Belleville in its 25th year. We acknowledge and understand the passion that this community has for the team. This will be a special event in a special place.”
Gord Simmonds, majority owner of the Bulls, said he was pleased to “be able to share the event with families and friends in the community.” He indicated that the event will be much more than a hockey game. Essentially, it will be a celebration of the game in many ways.
The Bell All Star Game will take place on Wednesday, February 1st at the Yardmen Arena of the Quinte Sports Centre. Prior to the game, there is a host of activities for fans of all ages.
The night before the game, there is a Skills Competition and “Three on Three” game. Following those events, fans can meet the players, take photos, and get autographs at a reception at the Wally Dever arena.
On Wednesday, the OHL Luncheon will be held at the Wally Dever. Guest speakers include former Bulls Craig Billington and Marty McSorley.
The Family Festival continues that day until game time. The theme of the festival is the celebration of hockey in the Quinte area, with a wide variety of participants. Local teams will be featured: the Wellington Dukes, the Trenton Sting, the Quinte “AAA” teams, women’s hockey teams, and tributes to teams of the past---including a special display of Belleville McFarlands’ memorabilia.
The Bulls have arranged a special alumni reunion, and a chance for fans to beat them in a table hockey game. Food, fun, and even music from the local band “Immortality”.
Ticket packages for the game and the Skills competition are $ 30. There are also Luncheon tickets available at $ 20. They may be obtained at the Bulls box office, or by calling 966-8338, extension 3885.
Dale Hunter, the coach of the Western Conference, boasted that he had eight players from the recent world junior championship teams lacing up the blades for his team. Brian Kilrea, the Eastern coach, was not terribly intimidated. With both of the Staal boys, and the effervescent Steve Downie from the Petes, the boys from the East will not be bullied by the western stars.
It will be a great experience for Quinte hockey fans. As Branch put it succinctly: “The game brings the best of the best together.” And it doesn’t get much better than that.