For the first time since its doors opened over a year ago, the Avenir Centre will play host to a national broadcast audience.
The country will finally see one of the best junior hockey facilities in Canada and the Canadian Hockey League.
Moncton’s downtown gem will be the stage for one of hockey’s longest and most bitter rivalries the game has ever seen.
On Tuesday, November 5th, it’s Canada versus Russia.
It may not be the 1972 Summit Series or the 1987 Canada Cup, but the stakes are still very high for many players participating in the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s best will be squaring off against Russia’s best junior aged players as a prelude to the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
For many QMJHL players including four Moncton Wildcats this is potentially the final opportunity to audition for the chance to represent their country on junior hockey’s highest stage.
Moncton Wildcats star forward and Calgary Flames Prospect Jakob Pelletier is extremely excited for the opportunity to play in front of the hometown fans and play for Team Canada once again.
“Having the chance to represent your country at the World Junior tournament is something very special,” Pelletier said proudly.
“Every Canadian watches the tournament very closely, it’s a Christmas tradition.”
Pelletier is off to a terrific start this season, but Wildcats Captain knows just how important this opportunity really is.
“It’s a great opportunity for me. These two games are very important because it’s probably the first time the Head Coach is watching you play,” confessed Pelletier.
“It’s your first impression and you don’t have a month to showcase yourself.”
“Two games, three days that’s all you have,” stressed the Flames 2019 first rounder.
From the hockey world, to entertainment, to countless economic spin offs for the city, the Avenir Centre continues to be a difference maker for the region.
“Hosting games such as this put Moncton on the world stage,” said Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold.
“Not only do we get the opportunity as fans to see some amazing talent, we also get to share our state-of-the-art Avenir Centre and City with spectators around the globe.”
“With every game with an international audience like this that takes place in our city, the repercussions are beyond expectations and always have a positive economic impact.”
Moncton City Councillor at Large and the Chair of Events Moncton Greg Turner believes this is only the beginning for the Hub City’s amazing facility.
“This game will be so much more than just an All Star Game,” explained Turner.
“It will feel like a Game Seven every shift.”
“These forty players are auditioning to represent their country.”
“It’s every young man’s dream to compete in the World Juniors, and they will be going all out to impress in hopes of moving on to the Czech Republic next month.”
Turner has been part of the junior hockey fabric in the city for the better part of three decades and is very excited at the prospects of hosting other major hockey events at the Avenir Centre.
“We are very hopeful to see other high profile events coming to Moncton,” Turner added.
“We are looking at this game as the beginning of a great relationship with the Canadian Hockey League along with Hockey Canada.”
Long time Commissioner of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Gilles Courteau believes the game is another tremendous showcase for the league and the Maritimes.
“It means a lot to us, and it means a lot to the players to be a part of the QMJHL team to play against the Russian Team in the CIBC Canada Russia Series.”
“To play in buildings like the brand new Avenir Centre is a great opportunity, players like to play there and play in front of good crowds. We are expecting very good crowds in Moncton.”
“All of the players realize the importance of the game,” explained Courteau.
“All the key people from Hockey Canada will be attending both games within the QMJHL in Saint John and in Moncton to do an extra evaluation of players in preparation for their final decision on the up coming selection camp in mid December.”
“I’m sure both cities will do their best to welcome and treat the players from the QMJHL and Russia with first class,” Courteau said.
Hosting Game 2 of the series is very special for the Moncton Wildcats organization.
“It’s an honour to be able to host such an event here in Moncton,” said Wildcats Director of Business Operations Keven Charland.
“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our beautiful building as well as our facilities to the nation. We are very fortunate to play in a world-class facility and to be able to show the rest of the country what Moncton is all about. We look forward to seeing everyone at the game on Tuesday night as we showcase our great City.”
The game also showcases the Wildcats depth and talent having four members participating in the Series.
“It is definitely a great source of pride. This highlights that we are committed as an organization to not only develop great human beings, but also great hockey players. We are excited to see them all hit the ice with the best in the country,” Charland added.
Alexander Khovanov, Olivier Rodrigue and Jordan Spence will be joining Pelletier. Khovanov will be vying for a spot on the Russian National team after being one of the teams final cuts a season ago. “It’s going to be another great experience to play in the CIBC Canada Russia Series for the second year,” Khovanov said.
“It’s important for me to show the coaches from Team Russia how I can play and show my best hockey,” confessed Khovanov .
“I’m looking forward to playing in the World Juniors this year and that’s my goal for these two games.”
Khovanov is looking to build off of last years experience. “That happens sometimes, and I feel bad a little bit about that, but all I can do is keep working and I’m really looking forward to this year.”
“It’s time for me now and all I can do is play my best hockey.”
So how does he feel about playing against his fellow teammates?
“It’s going to be fun,” Khovanov said with a laugh.
The skilled Russian centre is playing inspired hockey right now for the Cats.
Game 2 of the series should be very entertaining given the intensity of the rivalry and potential bad blood spilling over from Game 1 at the TD Station the night before.
“Moncton will always have a special place in my heart it’s the place of my first ever Memorial Cup,” said Rogers Sportsnet Colour Analyst Sam Cosentino.
“I’m so excited to get back to the city and see the new barn and all of its features. Equally as important I’m excited to see the impact it has had in the downtown area.” As usual I expect nothing less then the best from the City of Moncton and the hospitality of the Wildcats organization,” Cosentino said.
The City of Moncton and its downtown gem will undoubtedly shine bright when the Rogers Sportsnet crew arrives next week.
This is only the beginning of the next chapter in Moncton’s storied hockey history.