Moncton Coliseum hosts one last Canada-Russia clash
After 44 years the Moncton Coliseum is preparing to close its doors as the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats move into a brand new 8,500-seat Downtown Event Centre to start the 2018-19 season.
The Cats are treating their fans to an exciting final season at the Coliseum, rebounding from a last place finish a year ago to lead the Maritimes Division heading into the weekend with a 13-7-2-0 record.
Rookie sensation Jakob Pelletier has turned heads, leading all QMJHL 16-year-old rookies with 20 points (5-15–20) in his first 17 games of the season.
Tonight’s series finale presents Moncton fans with one last Canada-Russia clash at the Coliseum as the event returns to New Brunswick’s largest city for the first time since 2005 when Guillaume Latendresse (Drummondville Voltigeurs) scored twice in a 6-4 QMJHL win.
Wildcats head coach Darren Rumble will be on the bench alongside Team QMJHL bench boss Dominique Ducharme (Drummondville Voltigeurs) while Wildcats leading scorer Mika Cyr returns to the forward ranks.
It’s a bittersweet time for those who have been taking in games at the Coliseum since it opened its doors back in November 1973. Memories abound from a number of different hockey eras in the city of Moncton.
“We were just teenagers when the Moncton Beavers won the Hardy Cup, which was the Top Intermediate ‘A’ Championship in the country at that time,” recalled Wildcats radio play-by-play voice Marty Kingston, a long-time broadcaster and public address announcer inside the facility. “The Beavers beat a team from Thompson, Manitoba that year. A few years later in 1979 the Moncton Hawks won the championship again, defeating a team from Quesnel, BC.”
The American Hockey League arrived in Moncton in 1978 and a number of different NHL teams including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets would affiliate with the New Brunswick Hawks, Moncton Alpines and Moncton Golden Flames in the 10 years that followed.
“I have great memories of the 1982 Calder Cup Championship team that defeated the Binghamton Whalers,” Kingston continued. “A few future NHLers in Steve Larmer, Steve Ludzik and Dave Farrish were important parts of that group.”
Among the greatest players to ever wear a Moncton uniform, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Brett Hull scored 50 goals with the Moncton Golden Flames during the 1986-87 season. He went on to light the lamp 741 times over parts of 20 NHL seasons.
Of course, some of the best memories at the Coliseum have come during the Wildcats era that began when Robert Irving bought the franchise in 1996. Each of the club’s two President Cup titles have been won inside the building.
The first came in 2006 under head coach Ted Nolan, the same year Moncton hosted the 2006 Mastercard Memorial Cup. Wildcats assistant coach Joshua Hepditch was part of the 2006 team, one that would ultimately come up short against Alexander Radulov and the Quebec Remparts in the Mastercard Memorial Cup Final.
Four years later the Cats hoisted the President Cup at the Coliseum once again, this time prevailing against the interprovincial rival Saint John Sea Dogs under head coach Danny Flynn.
“No question, this building has housed some tremendous hockey games, several that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of,” said Kingston.
“While it’s always tough to make the transition, I think people are going to be very impressed with the new facility,” he added. “I had the chance to take a tour just recently and was really excited by what I got to see.”
Similar to last year’s hard fought series, the Canadian Hockey League carries a 9-6 lead (points) into Game 6, meaning a QMJHL win or overtime loss would capture a CHL series victory.
Team QMJHL looks to send the Coliseum off with a CIBC Canada Russia Series triumph tonight when the puck drops at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT on Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific.