The Brampton Battalion
They might be one of the lesser known organizations in the crowded Greater Toronto Area and usually take a back seat to what the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors are doing because, well, Mississauga hosted a very successful Memorial Cup last year while Brampton’s attendance figures for the 2006 RBC Cup drew Hockey Canada away from major centers for the National Junior ‘A’ Championship.
The Powerade Centre (formerly the Brampton Centre for Sports and Entertainment) is home to the OHL’s Battalion, who year after year are one of the best teams in the league and have done it with the same coach since Day One. This year is no different; they’re 33-21-3-7 following a loss to the Sudbury Wolves Tuesday night.
The organization has produced such NHLers as Jason Spezza, Raffi Torres, Darren Machesney and Cody Hodgson; in fact I remember vividly watching those four as well as several others even during those tough expansion years.
Coaching changes are seemingly rare at the Junior level, and Stan Butler has been able to be behind the bench for their fourteen years in existence; in fact he reached the 500 win plateau Sunday with a 3-1 triumph over the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.
The Battalion are still searching for their first OHL Championship as well as a Memorial Cup. Brampton has won four division titles (2002-2003, 2005-2006, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009) and one conference title (2008-2009) to date.
This year, breaking out and winning the league won’t be easy as they’ll have to get past the Niagara Ice Dogs and the Ottawa 67′s… should they accomplish that it’ll be the London Knights, who despite losing their part-owner and Head Coach Dale Hunter to the Washington Capitals mid-season, brother Mark has those boys still atop the Western Conference standings.
Unfortunately, despite the Battalion’s success, it’s tough to see a successful Major Junior team in the GTA. Toronto is only a half hour away and with the number of teams that Major Market has, teams the like the OHL’s Battalion and the Junior ‘A’ Capitals will continue to struggle to sell their product.
Even though I live in Alberta now, I still have my Battalion jerseys and will continue to support the great franchise when I’m home… even if they leave Brampton in the future.
Other notable Battalion alumni…
Woytek Wolski (Florida)
Jay McClement (Colorado)
Rotislav Klesla (Phoenix)
Kamil Kreps (Florida Draft pick, now in the KHL)
Jay Harrison (Toronto Draft pick, now with Carolina)
Brian Finley (Retired following the 2006-2007 season with Boston)
Phil Oreskovic (Toronto draft pick, now with Washington’s AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears)
Michael Vernace (Now with the New York Rangers, involved in an earlier deal with the Panthers which featured Wolski)
Evgeny Grachev (New York Rangers draft pick, with the Peoria Rivermen, St. Louis’ affiliate in the AHL)
Cory Emmerton (Detroit)
Thomas McCollum (Detroit)
Speaking of the OHL, did you catch the neat story involving the Erie Otters and Niagara Icedogs the other night? An unusual set of circumstances lead to forward Connor Crisp to strap on the pads and play in the crease for the last place Otters during a game against the Ice Dogs. The 17 year old would end up surrendering 13 goals on 45 shots; despite those numbers, I give Crisp a lot of respect and credit for stepping up and playing a position he’d never played before.
I listened to part of the Icedogs broadcast and heard the dismay of this move. There may be a majority of those who hated this move, and even the Otters organization apologized for “the embarrassment to the league and the sport of hockey”.
The Otters were in an emergency situation and their only other choice was to have six skaters and give the very strong Icedogs team an empty net to shoot at. It takes a lot of courage to step between the pipes of any sport, and from a goaltender myself I respect not only Connor Crisp for doing that but also the players of the Icedogs for showing Crisp some support following the game. Way to go guys, that’s what hockey is all about!
Props and respect should go towards the Burke family and the countless amount of NHLers that are involved in the “You Can Play” public service announcements. I like the fact that Leafs President and GM Brian as well as his son Patrick are carrying on the efforts of Brendan, who came out just before losing his life in a car crash. I’m a huge supporter of gays and lesbians as it’s in my family and I’m glad to see that the hockey community is behind this movement to accept and welcome somebody’s contribution to the team rather than alienating them because of sexual orientation.