The hallowed ice surface here at the Halifax Metro Center sits now in its own serenity. The seats are empty, the lights are dimmed, and the 2003 IIHF World Championship logo is etched into the ice. Right now is the calm before the storm. Do not let the tranquil environment fool you, however, for come December 26th the Halifax crowd will surely become Team Canada's seventh man.
Halifax fans are known for their devotion. They turn out in masses to support their Halifax Mooseheads, and fill local arenas for university and minor hockey. The Mooseheads draw over 7000 fans for most games, and it is not rare to see a capacity crowd of 9650 heartfully cheering on their home club. Their regional pride brings them out to support the squad, something Team Canada hopes to capitalize on this year. The people of Halifax have been looking forward to this tournament for a long time, and you can be sure their pride and devotion will swell from a regional to a national level.
Some players who will grace Team Canada are very familiar with the Metro Center, being members of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. These players know the tenacious nature with which the Halifax crowd approache games. AThey're crazy," said Alex Rouleau, a member of the Val D'Or Foreurs, Athey're just crazy. They make so much noise."
Pierre Marc Bouchard and Pierre Alex Parenteau, teammates with the Chicoutimi Sageueans, share the same sentiment. Said Bouchard, AIt'll be pretty exciting to play here as [a home player] these are some great fans." Parenteau had nothing but praise for the crowd saying, AThe crowd is so smart here, they know hockey. They love the Mooseheads and I really hope that they love this team, they're unbelievable."
Another player who knows the Metro Center, probably as well as any visiting player, is Marc-Andre Fleury, a goaltender for the Mooseheads only in province rival, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. AMaybe they'll boo me,' said Fleury, "I hope they will support me though. I know how much they love the Mooseheads, and I hope they love us too." Fleury hopes that the fans will not hold past grudges against him. Judging from the thunderous applause he received in the teams last exhibition game against the Atlantic University All-Stars, it appears those grudges have been long forgotten.
Having just lost their bid to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Halifax crowd will have something to prove to the international sporting community. The city is already on the short-list to bid for Canada in the 2007 IIHF Men's World Championship, and will show just how supportive they can be this Christmas. Showing their true spirit will place Team Canada on a permanent power play.
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