There is always something ‘special’ about the first game of a season, especially if it’s the home opener.

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 start of a long grind.

Players, coaches, and fans always get excited about 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 Prince George Cougars, who are in transition, will get a reminder of winning the 2016-17 BC Division regular season title tonight when they raise their first banner prior to hosting the Spokane Chiefs.

While the Cats roster is far from set at 29 players, it’s safe to suggest about half the team will be made up of new players, including several rookies.

There were expectations in 2016-17, with a veteran line-up, the Cougars would be a contender.

The team lived up to the hype in the regular season delivering its first division title after a stretch of being ranked in the CHL for 19 consecutive weeks.

Playoffs were a different story as the anticipation was for a much longer run than a six-game first round series loss to the upstart Portland Winterhawks.

Whether one likes the term rebuilding or retooling it is a new look Cougars team.

Sometimes teams that don’t have the pressure to win at an elite level can surprise.

The Winterhawks are a good example of that last year.

Photo Courtesy of the PG Cougars and Brett Cullen Photography

The Cougars may not have a 17-year-old Cody Glass (2017 first round pick, sixth overall of the Vegas Golden Knights) in their line-up like Portland did, but often there are some young players on a team that improve dramatically with increased ice time and responsibility.

New stars and front line players are born each season.

Fans in 2017-18 will want to see a Cougars team who night in and night out are prepared mentally and physically, work to peak efficiency and are competitive.

If the entertainment value is there and the supporters see progression, then the PG hockey faithful will take the results in stride.

I expect, and I’m sure everyone within the team feels the same way, that the Cougars will be good enough to earn a playoff spot.

It may seem like a modest goal, considering eight out of 10 Western Conference teams advance to the post-season, but it is realistic and achievable.

It’s year four under the EDGEPRO ownership with Todd Harkins as General Manager.

With new goalies and plenty of firepower lost from last season, the Cougars have more question marks than many other teams entering the 52nd WHL season.

This weekend marks the journey to see the results of the 72-game effort.

All teams are optimistic, upbeat, and eager to contend; the Cougars are no different.

 

FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

It came out that Kevin Durant apparently uses a second Twitter handle to argue with fans.  Yeah, he has a secret Twitter account. Then (American politician) Ted Cruz said, “You can do that?”

*Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon

 

The new Apple iPhone X’ has the ability to track activities such as jogging, stair climbing and mountain biking: But will it have any features for Americans?”

*Comedy writer Argus Hamilton

 

Who knew – Tony Romo is already a seriously good NFL color analyst. This might finally be his ticket for success in the postseason.

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

 

Sunday in Denver, Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott gained eight yards on nine carries. In The CFL, there’s a penalty for that: No Yards.

*Comedy writer Tony Chong of Vancouver

 

Major League Baseball set a single season record for home runs with 5,694 and still counting. Home runs have been on the increase ever since the high-five was replaced by the hy-podermic.

*Comedy writer Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.ca/

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

An errant ceremonial pitch at a Red Sox game nailed a photographer in his groin. If you’re scoring at home, the count was two balls and one strike.

*Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

 

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Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the Goat.
He also is the 94.3 radio color 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
Follow him on twitter: @Hartley_Miller