Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today hosted a media conference call to officially launch the start of the 2015-16 OHL regular season which begins Thursday night.
“It’s an exciting time,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “There’s that special energy with the start of a new season. As a league we’re so very fortunate to have the best young junior aged players in the world playing in our league with lots of new talent coming in. The facilities that we enjoy, the incredible coaching and the outstanding support programs that we have in place for our players starting with our scholarship program allow us to attract some of the best young players in the world.”
Commissioner Branch highlighted that 155 OHL returning-eligible players attended NHL Training Camps this season with 117 advancing to main camps following the 2015 NHL Draft where Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters became the ninth straight CHL player to be chosen first overall. In addition, the league’s scholarship program featured 285 graduate players in 2014-15 with a league-wide contribution of over $2.24 million last season. These figures bring league totals to 1758 players who have accessed their scholarship since 2008-09 with a total league-wide investment of $12.44 million in that time.
The 2015-16 season marks the introduction of the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Flint Firebirds to the Ontario Hockey League with home openers in both new markets scheduled for Saturday September 26.
“There’s a rich tradition and history of junior hockey in this community dating back to the Tiger Cubs, Fincups and Red Wings,” said Bulldogs General Manager and Head Coach George Burnett. “We’ve had a terrific response from the minor hockey organizations here in Hamilton and our team is trending in a very positive way. Things are taking shape nicely now and I know how appreciative the guys are for the facility here that is available to them on a day-to-day basis. It’s a pro facility and we’re thankful that we can come to work here at the First Ontario Centre.”
The Bulldogs open the season on the road against the London Knights on Friday, then welcome the defending OHL and MasterCard Memorial Cup champion Oshawa Generals to town on Saturday. The Firebirds also open on the road with the first game of a home-and-home series against Michigan rivals the Saginaw Spirit on Thursday, then fans get their first look at the revamped Dort Federal Event Center when the team hosts the Spirit on Saturday.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be one day away from the start of the season,” said Firebirds Head Coach John Gruden. “There’s been an overhaul of the rink in addition to the undertaking of establishing new billet families. We’ve done a lot of work to ensure that our players will be comfortable with their new surroundings and taken some time to get our guys familiarized with Grand Blanc High School, where many of them will be studying this season. The whole transition has gone well and when people see the building and the work that’s been put into the product on and off the ice I think they’ll be quite impressed.”
The debut of the Bulldogs and Firebirds are just a few of the highlights across the OHL during Opening Week which includes 21 games from Thursday through Sunday. Additional festivities include the Peterborough Petes launch of a season-long celebration of their 60th OHL season with a pre-game ceremony on Thursday, the Guelph Storm’s special 25th anniversary celebration on Friday night with alumni from every season in attendance, and the raising of the Generals’ Robertson Cup and Memorial Cup banners in Oshawaon Sunday night. Opening nights across Ontario markets will also feature special presentations to the Pioneer Bonus Bucks Season Ticket Holder winners of Free Gas for a Year and a VIP Team Experience.
Fans and media are encouraged to use the hashtag #OHLOpeningWeek from now through Sunday in celebration of the launch of the 2015-16 season.
#OHLOpeningWeek Schedule and Promotions:
Thursday September 24:
Erie Otters at Windsor Spitfires (7:05pm)
AM800 broadcasting live at WFCU Centre providing on-site giveaways.
Ottawa 67’s at Peterborough Petes (7:05pm)
Petes open 60th anniversary season by recognizing members of their inaugural 1956 team.
Flint Firebirds at Saginaw Spirit (7:05pm)
Spirit hosting the I-75 Divide Fan Fest at the First Merit Bank Event Park in Saginaw.
Friday September 25:
Barrie Colts at Kingston Frontenacs (7:00pm)
Frontenacs host home opener.
Peterborough Petes at North Bay Battalion (7:00pm)
Battalion host home opener.
Niagara IceDogs at Sudbury Wolves (7:00pm)
Live band pre-game outside Sudbury Community Arena.
Erie Otters at Sarnia Sting (7:05pm)
Sting hosting Fan Fest outside Box Office with food, drinks, and games for all in attendance.
Windsor Spitfires at Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (7:07pm)
Opening night party at Essar Centre with music, food, prizes, and giveaways.
Hamilton Bulldogs at London Knights (7:30pm)
Knights host home opener in Bulldogs first OHL game.
Oshawa Generals at Guelph Storm (7:30pm)
25th Anniversary celebration with former players representing each of Storm’s 25 years with new jersey and Wall of Fame unveiling.
Ottawa 67’s at Mississauga Steelheads (7:30pm)
Steelheads debut new jersey, host BBQ and Equipment Sale.
Owen Sound Attack at Kitchener Rangers (7:30pm)
Rangers host home opener.
Saturday September 26:
Oshawa Generals at Hamilton Bulldogs (7:00pm)
Pregame street party with the street closed in front of FirstOntario Centre with food trucks, live music, and activities for the family. Opening Ceremonies with local dignitaries and hockey celebrities.
Kingston Frontenacs at London Knights (7:00pm)
Niagara IceDogs at Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (7:07pm)
Guelph Storm at Owen Sound Attack (7:30pm)
Bayshore Broadcasting Tailgate party with shirt giveaways, face painting and other activities for kids, and a BBQ with proceeds going to United Way.
Saginaw Spirit at Flint Firebirds (7:30pm)
Pregame tailgate party with food and live music open to the public. Opening Ceremonies will include local dignitaries along with Commissioner Branch, Peter Karmanos and Mike Vellucci.
Sunday September 27:
Mississauga Steelheads at Sudbury Wolves (2:00pm)
Kingston Frontenacs at Sarnia Sting (2:05pm)
Post-Game skate with the Sting.
Barrie Colts at Ottawa 67’s (3:00pm)
67’s host home opener.
North Bay Battalion at Oshawa Generals (6:05pm)
Pregame tailgate party followed by Robertson Cup and Memorial Cup banner raising.
For more information please visit www.ontariohockeyleague.com.