Hockey in the Highlands

By Mike Baker

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt a smile stretch across their face last week when news that Haliburton County would be getting its very own Jr. A hockey team officially came through.

The Haliburton County Huskies are set to join the Ontario Junior Hockey League just in time for the 2021/22 season. Games could begin, pandemic permitting, as early as September at the brand new S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena in Minden.

At last, something to look forward to.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to a live hockey game. Not having any kids of my own, and with all of my little nieces and nephews living in the UK, I haven’t had any tykes to cheer on at my local arena on weekend mornings. And while I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of heading down to Toronto to catch a Maple Leafs game in person, I can’t say I’m particularly fond of the going rate. I could just about stomach paying an arm and a leg, but wanting my first-born child as well? That’s where I draw the line.

When I was out in Alberta earlier in my career, I had the privilege of covering a Jr. A team from the Alberta Junior Hockey League. I think that’s when I truly fell in love with the sport. More than anything else, I would look forward to the evenings when I would pitch up outside the home dressing room, where I would talk to coaches, players and volunteers prior to puck drop.

During the game itself I would transition from reporter to photographer on an ongoing basis – rushing from my seat in the stands, where I would take copious notes, to a spot by the boards behind the goal, hoping I was quick enough [or lucky enough] to snap the perfect shot of the puck flying over the goalie’s shoulder and into the net.

And boy, when that puck went in… Hockey fans are right up there amongst the most passionate of any sport in the world. Often times I would get carried away, caught up in the emotions of the crowd. I’d alternate between rambunctious fan and objective reporter, the former often winning out. It was just… Infectious.

Every hockey fan can relate. How many of you remember your first game? The cold breeze whipping against your face as you push open the arena doors, the sweet smell of popcorn drifting from the concession stand, the adrenaline that can only be brought on by two players fighting on the ice.
We’ll soon be able to experience all of that right here in Haliburton County.
Huskies owner Paul Wilson has taken a risk in bringing his franchise to the Highlands. Now it’s up to us, as a community, to rally behind them, show our support and prove it was a risk well worth taking.

I can’t wait for opening night. Hopefully I’ll see many of you there.