I've said it before and I'll say it again: The MTS Centre is simply too small... for the AHL.

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This article was published 28/5/2009 (4744 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Moose players Mike Keane, Zack Fitzgerald and Travis Ramsey (from left) have their game beards in full bloom for the Calder Cup final.

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Moose players Mike Keane, Zack Fitzgerald and Travis Ramsey (from left) have their game beards in full bloom for the Calder Cup final.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The MTS Centre is simply too small... for the AHL.

Ha, ha. See what I did there?

But it appears to be true, at least for the Calder Cup final, as tickets continue to be gobbled up for the opener Saturday between the Moose from Manitoba versus the Bears from Hershey. In fact, Game 1 is tracking (13,000 and counting) for a sellout as early as today.

That's 15,015 if you're scoring at home.

There's every chance that Game 2 (more than 9,000 sold) will also flirt with a sellout, which shouldn't be a groundbreaking development. This is Canada. You put the words "hockey", "playoffs" and "Cup" in the same sentence and you're going to get a sports fan's attention.

Regardless, the building will be near capacity at least and (we're just spitballin' here) extremely boisterous.

Of course, it's heartening to see hockey fans clamouring for tickets, and not just because the demand looks good on a Moose organization that has gone above and beyond to build a winner. I mean, you fork over $600,000 for sniper Jason Krog -- when, as a farm team for the Vancouver Canucks, you're not obligated to spend an extra nickel -- and no one can debate the franchise's sincerity in its drive for a championship.

And it's not about money, either. The Moose have already reaped the profit of eight home games, with at least two more potential sellouts to add to the till. So they've made their coin back on the Krog investment, and more.

No, the presence of more than 15,000 Manitoba hockey fans in the building Saturday night is noteworthy because it will acknowledge one overriding fact: What's about to happen is very rare, very difficult and, most importantly, you never know when such a moment will be captured again, if ever.

For example, how often does a Cory Schneider come along? He's a first-round pick who's ripened on the AHL vine to become the Moose MVP. Now Schneider is everything to the Moose that Carey Price was to the Calder Cup champion Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007.

Without Schneider, the Moose wouldn't be in the Calder Cup final. Without the Moose, Schneider wouldn't be the finest young goaltender not in the NHL. But that will all change very soon.

Next year, barring the unthinkable, Schneider will be in the NHL. Somewhere, if not Vancouver.

And what of head coach Scott Arniel? Consider that of the last 15 head coaches to win a Calder Cup, all but two are now or have been NHL head coaches.

 

And those two, Don Lever (Hamilton, 2007) and Claude Noel (Milwaukee, 2004) are assistant coaches in Montreal and Columbus, respectively. Heck, the previous two Moose head coaches, Randy Carlyle and Alain Vigneault, are in the NHL and they never got the Moose as close to a Cup as Arniel.

So if the Moose hold a parade at the end of this thing, Arniel is as good as gone. It's just a matter of time and opportunity.

And do you think a kid like Cody Hodgson is ever coming back this way again? Not likely. He's a 19-year-old prodigy destined for Vancouver. And to think Hodgson was a last-minute addition to a lineup already awash in depth and experience.

You see, it's never going to be the same. Not next year, nor the year after. Everything changes, and the more successful the Moose are, the more changes will come. In fact, with Canucks GM Mike Gillis personally watching over the Moose, the likes of Michael Grabner and Guillaume Desbiens have already unofficially started their 2009-2010 Canucks training camp.

All we're saying is watch them while you can. After all, a lot of planets have to align to get to a championship final, much less win. You have to be healthy. You have to catch a few breaks. You have to have all the working parts and a hot netminder. And you need chemistry and coaching.

It's an even more tenuous proposition in the AHL, where a parent club can muddle the works with a long playoff run of their own. Thank you, Canucks, in whichever clubhouse you may be found.

But maybe that's why more than 30,000 fans may flock to the MTS Centre in the next few days. They know something special is going on here. Something that in the eight years the Moose have resided in the AHL has never happened before.

Enjoy. Because a few years from now you'll be watching Schneider and Hodgson and Grabner on a television screen on Hockey Night in Canada and say, "Do you remember when those guys went to the Calder Cup final with the Moose? Remember that night there were over 15,000 at the MTS Centre?"

Yes, if only that darn rink was just a little bigger.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Randy Turner

Randy Turner
Reporter

Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.