Raine was on the ice for the team’s 2013-14 regular season home opening game against the visiting Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the opening few moments. What he saw, or more accurately, what he didn’t see, made him uneasy.
A dense fog had settled into the arena. It was thick enough to make players disappear into it. With only 1:21 gone in the first period, the officials brought the game to a screeching halt.
They tried having the players skate around and the zamboni drive around to clear the fog. It was of no use. What followed was an hour long delay while arena staff worked with the Greater Sudbury fire department to clear the air.
It was no good. Sudbury president and general manager Blaine Smith took to the microphone and announced after consulting with the Ontario Hockey League brass, the game had been cancelled for the sake of the safety of the players and fans.
The Sudbury faithful, hardcore to the bone, let out more boos than cheers to the announcement. They came for a hockey game and wanted one.
Raine summed it up the situation in one word.
“Dangerous,” he said about being on the ice with fog that thick. “There was a shot taken. I didn’t see it. Frank (Palazzese) didn’t see it. I heard it hit the glass and I couldn’t find it afterwards. I couldn’t see the puck or players. The zamboni disappeared into the fog … I couldn’t even see the taillights. It had to be done. For the safety of our players, we’re not playing and that’s why I am in a suit and tie this early.”
Sudbury defenceman Jeff Corbett has seen fog before in Sudbury in his three previous seasons, especially during training camp. Not anything like what he saw Friday night.
“I’ve never seen it this bad before,” Corbett said. “My first shift, I took a pass and I looked up and all I could see was fog. I couldn’t do much with the puck. I couldn’t see any Sudbury or Soo players. I played the puck off the glass because it was the safest thing to do. It was impossible to play.”
Despite safety being priority No. 1, Raine and his teammates are born to play. They knew it was hazardous, but still they wanted to compete. There was plenty of motivation besides it being the first game of the regular season.
“We all had families come here and make the trip,” Raine said. “Mine came 14 hours from Dryden to watch me play. They will not get to see me play, so I am disappointed. I’m sure all the guys are, too. A lot expressed disappointment. You prepare all day to play a game and, for a reason I’ve never heard of, we’re not playing.”
There has been no shortage of buzz over the recent years about building a new arena. The cancelled game added fuel to the fire and Raine couldn’t resist throwing in one shot.
“I guess it’s another indication we need a new barn,” he said.
Sudbury head coach Paul Fixter and the coaching staff were also left a bit bitter over the situation. They put in a lot of painstaking hours to prepare the team for the home opener. It all went to waste. Despite the letdown, Fixter still had his sense of humour.
“We still haven’t lost in Sudbury,” he joked. “The players were looking forward to the home opener. However, it’s the right decision. It was dangerous out there. I couldn’t see beyond the red line. We move forward.”
Smith didn’t want to make the announcement. He knew and still knows some fans left unhappy about the situation. There was a lot of input from the officials, the fire department and the league. Fans were brought in to try and dissipate the fog. It didn’t work. It left Smith sour.
“Despite everyone’s best efforts, the fog wouldn’t lift and it was deemed the game wouldn’t be able to continue,” Smith said.
“After consulting with the coaches from Sudbury and the Soo and officials, OHL commissioner Dave Branch, we were concerned about the players' safety. We tried to give it as much time as possible. It was a call we had to make. We apologize to all the fans. As we know, this has happened a few times now with this building. Lets hope the city gets onto this and make things better for the fans and the hockey team.”
There has been no announcement made about when a make-up game will take place. Available dates will be figured out over the next few days. Fans are reminded to hold onto to the cancelled game’s ticket stub and they can redeem it for the make-up game in the future or any other regular season game based on availability.
Game notesThe Wolves scratched Danny Desrochers and Nathan Cull (suspensions), David Eccles and Austin Veleke (healthy) and Brody Silk (injured/surgery).
The Hounds scratched Medric Mercier, Nick Pastorious, David Miller and Darnell Nurse.
There were no official shots recorded in the game