Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Belleville Bulls 2012-2013

The Belleville Bulls are gearing up for their thirty-second season. They split a pair of games last weekend against the Kingston Frontenacs, winning Saturday night at home in front of a respectable crowd of more than 2700.


Before I sweep into a nuts and bolts hockey discussion, might I suggest a trip to the rink where the Bulls ply their trade? Most of you have been to the “Yardmen Arena”, the proper name of the sheet on which the Bulls skate. There is another pad across the hall entitled the “Wally Dever Arena”, named after a former councillor and member of the Belleville Sports Hall Of Fame.


But over the past couple of years, there has been serious activity in and around those iced surfaces. It behooves you to have a gander at the results. There are now more ice pads in that area than you can shake a hockey stick at. (Bad grammar, horrible choice of words). The entire complex is entitled a “Health and Wellness Centre”. I suppose they had to call it something.


There is also a wonderful swimming pool, and a splash pad for those of you like myself who panic when the water is deeper than six feet. There is a gymnasium, with basketball, volleyball, and badminton capabilities. There are rooms to strengthen your muscles, to stretch your arches, to expand your every horizon. They also have therapists to put you back together after your Humpty Dumpty experiences.


There are countless other cubicles for young and old. It is truly a complex that will take care of the citizens of the Quinte area for years to come. Certainly worth a look.


Belleville Bulls fans can expect a better year on the ice this season. In a nutshell, the team is bigger, stronger, faster, and older, and they have arguably, the best goaltender in the Canadian Junior ranks, Malcom Subban.


The Bulls will rely on a couple of hulking forwards this year who have Major Junior experience. Austen Brassard came to the Bulls in a trade a couple of years ago, and has improved steadily since that time. In the few games that he played after arriving from Windsor, he amassed 17 points in his rookie season. In his second season with the Bulls, he potted 19 goals and had 15 assists, but posted a discouraging minus 19 figure in the plus-minus category. Last year, he had 27 goals and 24 assists. But he improved to a plus 6, a remarkable 25 point turnaround in just one season. The Winnipeg Jets drafted Brassard in the fifth round.


Brendan Gaunce hails from Markham, and was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the draft this year. He is in his third year with the Bulls. He posted respectable numbers for the Bulls in his rookie season, with 11 goals and 25 assists. But his plus-minus figure, minus 31, required some adjustment. Last year he ended up with a plus four in that category. He also tallied 28 goals and added 40 assists.


The coaching staff took notice of both players following last weekend’s tilts. Assistant Coach Jake Grimes: “It was nice to see some of the guys looking pretty sharp. Gaunce and Brassard looked particularly sharp”.


Gaunce and Brassard sat out Friday’s game at the K Rock Centre in Kingston. I spoke with them during the play in the second period. When I asked Gaunce about sitting in the stands, he stated, “When you watch the game, even an exhibition game, you want to be out there.” He told me he had been to Europe twice this summer on hockey excursions: to play in the World Championships, and to play in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Both events took place in the Czech-Slovak areas. He also played in Sweden and Finland earlier in his career.


He pointed out one significant difference in the hockey cultures. “We are really blessed to have the facilities that we have in Canada. There is certainly better funding for the game in our country.”


Both players are in a state of limbo because of the current bargaining situation in the NHL. There are no “mini camps” or rookie camps slated at this time.


For both, it is business as usual on the Olympic-sized ice in Belleville. Opening night at home is September 29th against Oshawa. Be there!


James Hurst

September 11, 2012 


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