We are still eight weeks from the Hamilton Bulldogs season coming to an end but they are running into an issue. It’s not an issue with their play, or even with a potential opponent. It’s with the Around the Bay Road Race, which takes place in Hamilton on Mar. 25.
Before we get to the Bulldogs, here’s a brief history lesson on the race. It was started in 1894, making it the oldest long-distance race in North America. It has seen Olympic gold medalists and Boston Marathon winners run it in it. It is one of the biggest events in Hamilton each year. The problem is that the finish takes place inside FirstOntario Centre, the Bulldogs home.
The Hamilton Spectator’s Teri Pecoskie notes that the race has the arena booked from Mar. 22 to Mar. 25. That’s same weekend that the OHL playoffs start. This creates the issue. It first popped up last season when the Bulldogs made the playoffs in their second year. However, the Bulldogs ended up finishing fifth, one point behind the Kingston Frontenacs, and ended up starting the playoffs on the road.
That is very unlikely to happen this year. The Bulldogs sit first in the Eastern Conference and have a nine-point lead on the second-place Barrie Colts and a 13-point lead on the fourth-place Frontenacs.
This is what President and General Manager Steve Staios had to say about the situation,
“It’s unfortunate, it really is… It’s something that we’ll have to work around and when the playoff dates from the league come out, we’ll try and manage our schedule accordingly in and around it.”
Fixing the Home Ice Issue
So what can happen? Well, the easy solution is that they just start it on the road and adjust the series format. They could also move the game to another arena in Hamilton, such as the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena. However, that place only holds 2,500 seats.
This shouldn’t be an issue for a team. Sure, there are times when scheduling conflicts happen and one game has to be moved. However, this will be an issue every year that the Bulldogs finish a season having earned home-ice advantage in the first round. Is that something any hockey team wants to go through? It would be much easier if this was in the middle of the season and the Bulldogs just go on a road trip.
This would be the first time that the Bulldogs have an opportunity to start the playoffs at home. That should be done in their home arena, not some other arena in Hamilton or another nearby city. This should mean a lot to the team and the city.
Now, of course, you could say that you can’t change something as historic as Around the Bay is in Hamilton. The thing is that the race has only concluded in the FirstOntario Centre since 2006. That is something that should be able to be changed. Obviously not for this year, but something to be thought about for the future.
The Bulldogs can’t afford to have this issue every season. Even with the season they’re having, they sit 10th in average attendance in the OHL. This city needs to grow as a hockey city again after the AHL’s Bulldogs fizzled in their last few seasons of existence. This is a city filled with hockey history that has seen plenty of NHLers born here. It’s just that it has become mostly a football city with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats having most of the city’s love. The Bulldogs need to take some of it back. This situation won’t help matters.
Hopefully, something can be worked out that works for both the team and the race organizers. That way, the Bulldogs can hopefully grow as popular as the race and the Ti-Cats.