Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Belleville Bulls 2010

With twenty-one games under their belts, this year’s edition of the Belleville Bulls has earned itself a variety of adjectives: frustrating, exciting, interesting, boring, and, occasionally, victorious.

They now stand in the lower regions of the East Division of the Eastern Conference of the league with fourteen points. Peterborough has ten points, and Sudbury with eleven, and Barrie with nine, are just behind the Bulls.

Coach George Burnett has spent many hours adjusting his lines and his line up to put a competitive product on the ice. The team has a completely different makeup from last year’s squad, with an emphasis on the younger player.

That bodes well for the future, but in Junior hockey, the future never lasts too long. Players who gain super star status in junior hockey often move directly to the higher ranks, even to the National Hockey League before their junior eligibility has expired. The Toronto Maple Leafs tinkered with the idea of elevating Naz Kadri from the London Knights to the big time before reversing their decision at the last minute. Would it have been disastrous for Kadri’s career? Not my call. I threw out my crystal ball years ago.

In order for the younger players to succeed in the OHL, they need to rely on veteran players to “show the way”, on and off the ice. The Bulls will rely on the likes of Andy Bathgate, Bjorn Krupp, Luke Judson, Steven Silas and Michael Curtis to lead them this year. They gratefully welcomed back Kyle DeCoste, an overage forward who has recovered from off-season surgery

Burnett concedes that he may have put a little too much pressure on the younger core earlier in the season. But they have gone through their growing pains, and they now seem ready to take charge.

The rookies have shown well in the past couple of weeks. Malcolm Subban has played consistently well in goal, giving the Bulls a chance to win on most nights. First round draft choice Brendan Gaunce has been impressive at the Yardmen Arena the past few games. He is strong around the net, sees the ice very well, and makes fine passes at the right time. Adam Bignell, son of a former Bull Greg Bignell, improves with the amount of ice time he gets.

Scott Simmonds spent last season with the Dukes, and has made the step up to the OHL Bulls without a problem. He is a strong forward, and wins most of the battles along the boards. Dylan Corson is also in his first year in the league, with a fine hockey pedigree. His dad Shayne toiled at the NHL level for many years.

It is by no means an easy task for a sixteen or seventeen year old lad to play at the OHL level. Hometown fans demand excellence, game in and game out. They do not tolerate mistakes, they are not patient. They will scream at young players trying to learn the finer points of the game, trying to help their team. Most of us knew that this would be a tough season for the Bulls, with so many rookie and sophomore players.

Richard Panik, number twenty-eight on your score sheet, is worth the price of admission to any Bulls’ game. He is deceptively fast, and creates opportunities when none seem to exist. With a burst of speed, he winds his way around unsuspecting defencemen, and creates excellent scoring chances. He is pesky, always ready to jump into the action to free the puck. He brings a wonderful set of European puck handling skills to the rink, making outstanding plays.

Great news for Dukes fans! Doors will open at the new Duke Dome in a month! First game is slated to begin Friday night at 7:30pm against Whitby Fury. Tickets are now available from Betty Masterson at: 613-399-1573. Call now! They will not be available forever!

See you at the rink!
James Hurst
16 November 2010

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