Charlie Skinner has just two pieces of advice for the Ottawa 67’s as they get set to take on the Oshawa Generals Thursday for Game 1 of the OHL Eastern Conference Finals: “Play hard and have fun.”
The 10-year-old might just be the Ottawa 67’s biggest fan. He’s been on the ice with the players, including his favourites Tye Felhaber and Sasha Chmelevski, he’s caught a few T-shirts from Riley Raccoon and has followed the team on the road with his dad. He has even worn 67’s war paint to school on game days. Skinner will likely be one of the first to show up Thursday when the 67’s open their series against Oshawa – and he predicts that the 67’s will make quick work of the Generals.
“I think the 67’s will win in four games,” says Skinner, who has been a huge fan of the team for the past four seasons. But it’s not only the hockey that he comes for, but more of the fan experience that the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group brings to the arena each and every game – from the bouncy castles and intermission games for kids, to fun theme nights throughout the season, like Dunder Mifflin night.
“love going to 67s to see Riley the mascot and to play in the kid zone,” adds Skinner. “The bounce house is my favorite. I usually play during the first period or two and then I’ll watch the 67s with my dad the second half of the game. I always try to catch a T-shirt when Riley throws them to the kids. I also love the cotton candy and popcorn.”
For his Dad Matt, 67’s hockey has never been better. Not only did the team post the franchise record for points this year, but they also brought in big stars Mikey DiPietro and Lucas Chiodo to bolster an already stellar, deep lineup.
And while the regular season was a treat in itself for Matt and Charlie, the playoffs have been that large helping of gravy over those perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes. The two have been to every home playoff game, joining 7,000 fellow rabid fans who have gotten behind the team this year.
“The atmosphere has been electric at TD Place during this playoff run,” adds Matt.
“The 67s fans are always enthusiastic, the kids are great at making lots of noise, but during the playoffs all the fans have really kicked it up a notch. It’s nice to see big crowds coming back to TD Place for 67s hockey. We’ve been going for four years now and every year the crowds have been getting bigger.”
And it’s not only the fans who are getting the, “experience of a lifetime,” as Matt puts it, but the fan support is also trickling down from the coaches to the players to the staff – boosting moral, building confidence and creating a loud, raucous playoff atmosphere inside the 67’s barn.
“We are playing well on the ice, but the main reason is because the fans are loud in the building and they help us every night,” says forward Tye Felhaber, 67’s regular season leading scorer. They are supporting us, and they have got our backs and it’s a fun atmosphere to play in.”
Felhaber, who was passed on in consecutive NHL drafts, signed an entry level deal with the NHL’s Dallas Stars this year after notching an impressive 59 goals and 109 points in just 68 games with the Barber Poles. The right winger has posted six goals and 13 points in 8 playoff games so far this year. He’s got his sights set on the Oshawa Generals and hopes the team can bring home an OHL Championship this year – and perhaps even a Memorial Cup.
“Just to be a 67 and have a winning organization and to try and go for a championship here is a special opportunity and we want to make the most of it,” says Felhaber.
Everyone in the room is excited and we are already talking about the crowd. They just help us so much. Everyone is just really pumped up.”
The 67’s won five of eight regular season games this year over Oshawa, but Felhaber and crew know that the Generals will bring their A-game, especially with highly-touted Boston Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser between the pipes. Keyser holds the league’s best post-season save percentage of .943.
“I think that they are going to come out hard and be a really tough team to play against,” adds Felhaber.
“They have a great goaltender, great forwards up front, good defense and they got some key additions at the deadline. It will be an exciting series, but I think that they will be definitely a way tougher team than they were this season.”
67’s head coach André Tourigny says he is excited to bring the team back to the Glebe for Game 1, adding that the fan support has been that added boost that has helped the 67’s win eight straight playoff games so far without a loss.
“We are looking forward to getting back in front of the fans and that will be really exciting,” adds Tourigny. “They have given us a lot of energy since the start of the playoffs and throughout the season, so it will be a lot of fun.”
The 67’s are going to need some more of that raucous energy Thursday night, so grab the family, a few pals, don your 67’s war paint and come down and support the boys as they push a berth in the OHL Championship. Puck drop is at 7 p.m., but get there early, as the first 4,000 fans will get a free 67’s #NoQuit Rally Rag to wave in the air. Click here for tickets.
Game 2 of the series will go on Saturday at TD Place. Puck drop is at 2 p.m. Click here for tickets to that game.
Go, 67’s Go.