Kyle Balzer, My PG Now

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 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 first of 34 games at the CN Centre (down two from last year) in the 2018-19 season will be featured tonight.

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 half-year absence.

The Cougars started their 25th anniversary season with three road games that produced a 4-2 win over the Kelowna Rockets, a 5-1 loss to the Victoria Royals and a 2-1 shootout loss to Victoria.

The Cats get a chance to play their next four on home ice but the hype, pomp and build-up centers around the game this evening against Kelowna.

Fans will be curious to see the changes the Cougars have made; an idea as to the progress from last year and the all-important “compete” level.

Naturally, not everything will be judged on the result or 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 back-to-back home games on a Tuesday and Wednesday in mid-November, and yet another when the curtain opens to signal a new beginning.

The Cougars went from a high of a first-place BC Division finish for the first time in the 2016-17 regular season to a low of a first-round playoff exit in 2017 followed by a last-place finish in 2017-18.

Virtually no one is expecting a pennant in 2018-19, but nearly-everyone that follows the team closely anticipates significant improvement, including a playoff spot.

The Cougars Hlinka-Gretzky Cup-winning goaltender Taylor Gauthier is off to a solid start with two strong games in three outings.

For the fans, there is a more close-up and personal feeling to watch him at the CN Centre.

Instead of being a rookie, he is the go-to guy in net with tonight providing that first opportunity to see him on home ice since his status has been elevated.

We hear that so many Cougars could have break-through seasons and this evening those in attendance can start formulating their own opinions.

Opening ceremonies for a home opener are greatly enhanced from other games because although we have seen it before, there is so much time that has elapsed that there is a refreshed feeling.

The home record is 0-0, but that starts to change tonight.

Most everyone wants the home team to begin with a “W” to get the mood and the show off on the right foot.

Tonight’s game, in reality, isn’t any more important than Saturday’s rematch or the game next Friday at home against Vancouver, but those games do not have the sparkle of the home opener.

The Teddy Bear Toss game and the regular season finale are other “special” home games but the party like atmosphere is unsurpassed when it comes to game number one in front of the locals.

The Cougars will take advantage of game one by teaming up with Crusin’ Classics Car Club and the Overdrive Car Club to have over 18 classic cars deliver the players to a red carpet entrance at the front of the CN Centre.

Tonight, the schedule, last season’s record, or the stats lines take a back seat.

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

###

I have started a weekly podcast show that predominately features the PG Cougars.

It is called ‘Hartley’s Cat Scan,’ which will be a weekly feature through the season.

My first guest of the season is Cougars GM Mark Lamb.

You can check it out here.

Hartley Miller’s CatScan Podcast | My Prince George Now

 

FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

North and South Korea say they want to host the 2032 Summer Olympics together. The highlight will be when the athletes try pole-vaulting from North Korea into South Korea.

*Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs have scrapped their ban on beards. Most excited about the new directive is forward Mitch Marner. It gives him something to look forward to when he finally reaches puberty.

*Patti Dawn Swansson in the River City Renegade

 

Ex-NBA player Matt Barnes claimed he smoked pot before every game. Pick-and-roll your own!

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

 

Alexandra King, a model who was apparently 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s ex-girlfriend, posted a smiling emoji after his season-ending ACL injury on Instagram with one word “Karma.”
Just guessing their split wasn’t amicable?

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

 

Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns noticed what happened recently to another QB that brought an NFL franchise back from the dead. Look for him to get more tape and protection in the ACL area this week.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

 

The Paradise Valley, Ariz., a home that Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald is putting on the market for $5 million (U.S.) boasts seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a 12-car garage and a wine room that will hold 1,200 bottles.  And, we presume, no shortage of yards.

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

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

One of my local sportscasts blurred part of N.Y. Jets RB Isaiah Crowell’s TD celebration where he wiped his butt with the football. That’s right: it was a back-crack block.

*Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

 

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT.
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.
Follow him on Twitter: @Hartley_Miller