The revelation that the franchise was moving across the harbour, away from the venerable old Forum on Windsor Street, was certainly no surprise. It simply ended months of speculation as to which arena the team was going to call it’s new home.
Followers of the team had been guessing the Lions would end up anywhere from Bedford to Upper Tantallion.
The biggest news came when team president Matt Hill gave notice to the media throng assembled that the team would no longer be called the Halifax Lions.
Standing confidently beside the franchise’s outstanding young coach, Troy Ryan, and flanked by a line of heavy hitting corporate sponsers and ownership partners, Hill declared the team would henceforth be known as the Metro Marauders.
The newly christened Marauders would come complete with a brand spanking new logo, new uniforms, and more importantly, a new attitude.
Hill would go on to outline the Marauder’s plans to reach out to the community, get involved with minor hockey, and offer HRM fans a less expensive option to the Mooseheads, while simultaneously strengthening ties to their big brother from the Metro Centre.
After hearing the news,of course, we scoffed.
“Maritime junior hockey at the Sportsplex?” We asked.
“Doesn’t work.” We answered.
In time, we may all be proven correct. The Maruaders may simply become another footnote in the long and sorry tale of junior hockey teams trying to be financially viable at the ‘Plex on the other side.
However, having been involved with the franchise for the past year, I’ll let you in on what’s becoming a well known secret.
The Marauders are really, really, trying.
On the ice, the team is getting better. In his second season as Head Coach and GM, Ryan led the franchise to it’s first playoff series, bowing out in six grueling games to the Weeks Crushers.
How did they get there? By one simple motto; Troy Ryan’s way….or the highway.
Don’t believe me? Ask Brendan Taylor, the team’s leading scorer who averaged nearly two points a game during his stint in Halifax.
Ryan cut Taylor a week before the playoffs, stating that Taylor wasn’t a good fit.
Ask Kyle Dilosa, the big, talented sniper, who was the victim of repeated benchings throughout the campaign.
Make no mistake….Troy is in charge.
And well he should be, considering he took a team that had a bevy of mediocre players, lost several key contributors to the QMJHL, and went through an unprecedented January stretch of thirteen games in twenty two days, to within two games of the MJAHL semi finals.
Coach Ryan also goes to great lengths to make himself available to the media, and is honest and forthright in his responses to even the toughest of questions.
Off the ice the team has got its second wind behind the youthful enthusiasm and business savvy of Matt Hill.
Hill has lined up an impressive list of sponsors and is one hundred percent committed to making the Marauders presence felt in the community.
This is a franchise that is doing all the right things on and off the ice to be a success.
Moving their home games to Friday night is certainly questionable, especially if the popularity of AUS hockey continues to build, and the Mooseheads finally become competitive again.
Regardless, here’s to the little engine of metro hockey that believes they can get to the top of the hill.
If the Metro Marauders do fail and we are all left to say, “Told you so”, at least Matt Hill and Troy Ryan can hold their heads up high and say, “We gave it our best shot”.