There are no expectations of a pennant but there are expectations of significant improvement for the Prince George Cougars.

Six months removed from a real game, the Cougars along with 13 other WHL teams open the curtain tonight on the 2019-20 regular season.

The Cats first six games in their 26th season are against teams in the BC Division, and their first 10 are against Western Conference opponents.

The PG schedule is right here.

Unlike last year, the Cougars begin in the friendly confines of CN Centre with a doubleheader against the Western Conference champion Vancouver Giants, who are listed #10 in the CHL pre-season rankings.


A home opener is special!

Yes, the points count the same as any other regular-season game; yes, it’s not the intensity of a playoff game; yes, in reality, it’s just the start of a long grind.

Players, coaches, and fans usually get excited about the opening night; this is the time of the hockey year all organizations have hope, promise, belief and confidence.

How long the feeling continues varies from team to team and city to city.

The significance of the first game in front of the home crowd, in essence, has little to do with the
standings or the opponent or line match-ups.

This is about the return of the team and WHL after a lengthy absence.

Naturally, not everything will be judged on the result and the effort of this one particular game, but this is the start of a journey that can help set the tone.

It is one thing to play a home game in mid-November, and yet another when the gun fires to signal a new beginning.

The Cougars can no longer claim they are a “young team in transition.”

Instead, they are a “young team with experience.”

PG has a full complement of three 20-year-olds, but only five 19-year-olds.

In total, there are 17 returning players.

The Cats are heavy in the 2001 birth year with ten 18-year-olds, including starting goalie Taylor Gauthier.

They start with seven rookies on the roster, including 16-year-old back-up goalie Tyler Brennan.

With Gauthier and Brennan, they have two first-round WHL bantam picks in net, something seldom seen in the league.

The Cougars roster is right here.

No one is sure where the goals will come from, but Head Coach/GM Mark Lamb, in our Cat Scan interview, insists he is more concerned about cutting down the goals against rather than worry about goals for.

In 2018-19, the Cougars scored a Western Conference low 152 goals in 68 games, and in five exhibition games this month tallied just six goals in five games.

Prince George allowed 237 goals last season, second-most in the West, and Lamb realizes that number has to be trimmed significantly for the Cougars to make a noteworthy climb in the standings.

Today, all 22 WHL teams are full of optimism tied for first at 0-0.

Lamb admits if he was offered right now the eighth and final playoff spot (out of 10 teams) in the West come March, he would “take it”.

Each season produces many surprises as rosters change, key injuries occur and some players come out of near obscurity to provide an impact.

The Cougars welcome and embrace an underdog role following a last-place finish last season.

The fun, the journey, the highs and lows are about to begin.

For tonight, the schedule, last season’s record, and the stats lines take a bit of a back seat.

This is all about soaking in an opening night that truly is its own entity.

All that’s left … is to drop the puck!

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This is season two of Hartley’s Cat Scan, a weekly podcast show that predominately features the PG Cougars.

My first guest for year two is Cougars Head Coach/GM Mark Lamb.

Mark looks back to turning down the Edmonton Oilers and hiring Jason Smith. He also provides insight into the team, looking both short-term and long-term down the road.

You can check it out right here.


FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

Justify tested positive for drugs — just before his stirring Triple Crown run a year ago — but wasn’t punished. There went horse racing’s “Just Say Neigh” public-service campaign.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/

A New York State Senator is proposing a bill to abolish amateurism for college athletes. Why not? The Jets, Mets and Knicks are all paying the people who play for them.

*Comedy writer Jim Barach http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.ca/

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams was fined $21,506 for a roughing the passer penalty against
Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield. He posted a video clip saying “This league is a damn joke!” So how much will Adams be fined for that comment?

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

The remnants of the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins will not toast with champagne this year when the final unbeaten NFL team falls—they’re going to save that champagne instead for if and when this season’s Dolphins ever do win a game.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

A runaway cow in Austria wandered into a sporting-goods store and chewed through two sports bras and a T-shirt.

That’s odd; you’d think she’d go for a jersey.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

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Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca