Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Hockey Night in Belleville

The final score of the hockey game last Saturday night was…..unimportant. After all, it was an exhibition game, and the players are just working out all of the kinks from a summer away from the game. The Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets faced off at the Quinte Sports Centre to the delight of thousands of hockey fans from the area.


Understandably, the star of the show was Alexander Ovechkin,  the Russian Rocket who has been a star in the NHL since his debut. But for the hockey fans from the Quinte area, it was also an opportunity to watch four young players with local roots sporting the NHL jerseys: Edward Pasquale, Eric Tangradi, Austen Brassard, and Phillip Grubauer. Pasquale played for the Bulls, as did the others; but he also had a stint with the Wellington Dukes.


                                                                 Austen Brassard
Edward played 18 games for the Dukes in the 2006-2007 season. He also played for the Belleville Bulls that season, and was traded to the Saginaw Spirit the following year. He spent three seasons with the Spirit before moving on into the ranks of professional hockey. His first pro season, in 2011-2012, was split between the Chicago Wolves and the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL. We were fortunate to see him in action in Fort Myers as his Gladiators tangled with the Florida Everblades. “Eddie” has been with the St John’s Ice Caps of the American Hockey League for the past two seasons.


Eric Tangradi has had the most experience of all of the former Belleville Bulls who played Saturday night. He has dressed for 81 NHL games, mostly with the Penguins. He played 36 games for the Jets last season. After finishing his OHL career with the Bulls in 2008-2009, he was chosen in the second round of the draft by the Anaheim Ducks. He has played for the Penguins and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the past four seasons.


A native of Rosenheim Germany, Grubauer played in two seasons for the Bulls, then spent time in Windsor and Kingston before turning pro. He also tended the twine in the ECHL, with the Carolina Stingrays and the Reading Royals. He played for the Hershey Bears last year, but also dressed for a couple of games with the Capitals.


Austen Brassard began his OHL career with the Windsor Spitfires, and was traded that year to the Belleville Bulls. He played in four seasons for the Bulls, and was selected by the Jets in the fifth round of the draft. He is entering his first season of professional hockey, and is excited about the prospect. “It was great to come back to Belleville, and to play on the big ice here. I also was happy to visit with my billets here, Anne and Danny Morrison.”


Tangradi also noted that he was pleased to visit with his Belleville family. “I got to hang out with my former billets here-Rob and Irene Cooke-and it was a lot of fun.”


I spoke with Bulls’ coach George Burnett after the game. He was thrilled to see his former players in NHL jerseys. “It was tremendous to see four former players on the ice for the game. They are all trying to break into the NHL, on a permanent basis, and it is great to see these kids following their dreams. I did have a chance to talk to the three players with the Jets, but not with Phillip. It was a special occasion for all of them to re-connect with their billets.”


The game was covered by the CBC, with Ron MacLean and Don Cherry doing their “Coach’s Corner” during the intermission. Cherry, a Kingston boy, referred to the Belleville McFarlands as “my heroes”. Likely tongue in cheek. In those mid-sixties days, Cherry and fellow Kingstonians had a bitter rivalry with the Macs. There was no love lost in those battles with the Aces and the McFarlands.


The final score was 4-3 for the Capitals, as Washington defenceman Mike Green beat Ed Pasquale in the shootout. As I said, completely irrelevant.


James Hurst

September 17, 2013.

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