Avenir Centre the setting for potential record-setting QMJHL battle
Moncton Wildcats face off against Saint John Sea Dogs Friday at new Avenir Centre
It's going to be the ultimate battle of New Brunswick.
On Friday evening, the Moncton Wildcats will face off against the Saint John Sea Dogs in the season opener at their new home, the Avenir Centre.
And it could be a record-setting game — possibly the most-attended junior hockey game ever played in the province.
Ryan Jenner, the team's director of business operations, says the game is sold out.
"To have this game come and be sold out is awesome. You know the city has really supported this building and supported the team and we're excited to put on a show for them," Jenner said.
The Avenir Centre seat capacity is 8,800, although Jenner said the exact tally of tickets sold is still being tabulated.
The venue is bigger than its closest New Brunswick competitor, Saint John's Harbour Station, with a capacity of about 6,600.
"I think it's appropriate and we're happy with the matchup and certainly there's a good rivalry between Moncton and Saint John on lots of different fronts and hockey is certainly one of them, so it's nice to be able to play against a New Brunswick team," Jenner said.
Jenner said there was some skepticism when the decision was made to move the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team from the Moncton Coliseum to the new centre.
But he said the tide seems to have turned.
"People are excited about the building. I really believe that the sentiment has changed from people who were skeptical to after being able to get in and see it during that grand opening it turned them in to believers," he said.
New centre will help recruitment
Jamie Tozer, editor of the Sea Dogs blog Station Nation, said he's excited about the matchup and the new facility.
"I think it's awesome and I think it's huge for junior hockey in this province because junior hockey has become so much of a recruiting game. It's not like it used to be where players kind of got drafted and they just ended up there," he said.
"Now you really have to sell your program to these players, and I think Moncton having this building a state-of-the-art, mini-NHL-type building, this is going to be huge for them and huge for the province."
Tozer will be at Friday's game and said there will likely be a good turnout of Sea Dogs fans.
He said the ice conditions at the new arena will be a vast improvement over the old location.
"I'm sure people are going to be relieved because this game at the Coliseum, you'd probably have to wear shorts, it would be so hot. I think people are going to really enjoy a much more comfortable environment than what they're used to," Tozer said.
Players 'over the moon'
Jenner said this will be a good foundational year for the Moncton Wildcats after a rebuilding year.
And he said the players can't wait to test out their new home.
"The hockey players are over the moon. It's a hockey player's dream to play in front of big crowds, that's really what gets you going and we know that Moncton will be behind them the whole way so it'll be the seventh man there to give them that extra push so that we can hopefully put two points up and a big win," Jenner said.
The Wildcats will also play at the Avenir Centre on Sept. 30 against the Halifax Mooseheads.