When the puck drops on the Bulldogs’ home opener on Oct. 15, it will have been 527 days since the players had the opportunity to play in front of the Bulldogs faithful at the Alberni Valley Multiplex.
Little did the Bulldogs know on March 5, 2020, when the Nanaimo Clippers eliminated the Bulldogs from the BCHL playoffs, that the world would change significantly just days later.
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“I told the players when training camp opened that ‘expectations’ is a great word because it means that something is expected of us,” said Bulldogs president David Michaud. “For too long, there have been little to no expectations for the Bulldogs. That is something Joe Martin and I have focused on changing.”
The Bulldogs are led upfront by a trio of returning forwards. Newly named captain Stephen Castagna is joined by Brandon Buhr and Josh Van Unen to form the club’s top line. Forward depth is a strength for the club, and there are high hopes of hearing the famous Bulldogs goal horn sound many times this season.
Welcoming fans back to the Multiplex is a welcome sight for Michaud and the players. “The common theme last year was how strange it was to play in an empty arena. I know the players are very excited to have the hometown support back. There are very few junior hockey rinks that offer the type of home-ice advantage that the Multiplex does. It’s not a welcoming environment for the opposition, and I know the fans will make a huge impact on our players,” said Michaud.
Fans can expect to see some enhancements at the Multiplex. Panago Pizza will be available on the concourse, and Twin City Brewing beer will be back for another season. The new and improved lighting will also enhance the game-day experience for fans.
Perhaps the best new addition for the fans was the creation of the San Group Youth Program. The new partnership between the San Group and the Bulldogs allows all local youth 18 and younger free admission when accompanied by an adult. Michaud describes the program as a game-changer for the community. “Kamal, Suki and the entire staff at the San Group have been so supportive of the youth program. Bulldogs hockey has never been more affordable for families to come to enjoy a game at the Multiplex. We’re working hard with the San Group on other exciting initiatives as well. The San Group and the Bulldogs organization share many similar views on the direction we want to take this partnership and it’s the community members who will benefit most,” Michaud said.