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67’s eager to take the game outdoors

 

The 50th anniversary celebrations for one of the most storied franchises in the Canadian Hockey League are about to get even more grand as the Ottawa 67’s take the action outdoors this coming Sunday, playing host to their cross-river QMJHL counterparts the Gatineau Olympiques at TD Place Stadium.

The 67’s have taken their fans on a walk through past decades in franchise history at home games throughout the season, with notable appearances from Bobby Smith and standout defenceman Brian Campbell whose number 44 was retired by the club on November 2nd.

The Barber Poles are about to take their 2017-18 season celebrations to a new level though.

Outdoor action comes to the Ontario tundra for the first time this weekend, marking the third time an OHL game has taken place in an outdoor stadium after premiering at Comerica Park in December 2013. It was there that the London Knights and Plymouth Whalers set the CHL attendance record of 26,384 following another game between the Windsor Spitfires and Saginaw Spirit.

The 67’s and Olympiques take centre stage when the puck drops at 3:00pm on Sunday, a day following an NHL100 Classic tilt between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens at TD Place Stadium.

This isn’t the first time the two sides of the Ottawa River have clashed. The 67’s and the then-Hull Olympiques played each other eight times during regular season play from 2000-02, with a number of hard-fought matchups bringing a new rivalry to the surface.

“Those games were intense,’ legendary former 67’s coach and GM Brian Kilrea told ottawa67s.com’s Chris Hofley.

“We didn’t just play it as another game – it was an ‘our league against theirs’ type of mentality. Everyone wants to brag about their league being the best and we were no different.”

While it’ll be their first OHL outdoor contest, 67’s players aren’t strangers to lacing them up on the pond. Several shared their childhood experiences with Don Campbell in the Ottawa Sun last month.

“We had a sick backyard rink,” 67’s captain Travis Barron recalled. “Dad did a real good job. We had boards all around, good nets, and big floodlights over top and four more floodlights in the corners.”

The Belfountain, Ont. native was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2016 NHL Draft and is second in team scoring this season with 24 points (7-17–24).

“Cousins, brothers friends … it didn’t matter who showed up,” he continued. “It was rock-paper-scissors to see who went in nets and then we went at it. We had some great battles out there.”

Austen Keating’s story is no different. The Guelph, Ont. native was Ottawa’s first round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection and spent many an hour on the backyard rink in his younger days.

“I think Guelph winters are just a little warmer than Ottawa winters,” he told Campbell. “Christmas Day used to be about the day the rink would be ready. We’d spend all Christmas holidays out there.”

Interestingly, there is one member of the 67’s that does have Canadian Hockey League outdoor experience. Overage goaltender Olivier Tremblay was the backup netminder for the Victoriaville Tigres when they faced the Shawinigan Cataractes at the Sainte-Tite Fairgrounds in 2014-15.

 The 67’s will enter action on Sunday well-rested, looking to reverse a four-game losing skid on Thursday night in Peterborough before resting up for the 17-10-2-2 Olympiques who play games on Wednesday and Friday.
Tickets for the Outdoor Game will be $15 on South Side General Admission, and $20 on North Side Reserved Seating including all taxes and fees. Visit TDPlace.ca for more details.
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