Tailgating is more closely associated with the sport of football, but Timmins Rock fans will have an opportunity to experience the pregame ritual prior to Saturday’s home opener at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday.
The Rock will open their 2018-19 NOJHL campaign against the French River Rapids, in a contest scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., but all of the pregame activities will get underway at 3 p.m.
“Our board of directors have been kind of talking about the idea for the past couple of years,” said Rock president Ted Gooch.
“We were trying to figure out a way to start the season off in style and get the fans excited.
“We think this will help pack the Mac, help welcome the new players to Timmins and show them the type of atmosphere the team plays in during the season.”
The Rock got an early start on planning the event and everything has come together quite nicely.
“We were able to pull all the pieces together and we are excited to have an outdoor party that’s totally free for the fans,” Gooch said.
“They will be able to enjoy some food and good live music before they come into the rink for the game.”
The portion of McIntyre Road in front of the arena will be blocked off for the event, the same as it was when Timmins hosted Rogers Hometown Hockey, although there will still be access to all of the parking lots.
“We will have a stage set up with some live music (Patrick Lauzon, Rosedale and Kyle Cote),” Gooch said.
“NEO Laser Tag is providing some bounce houses for the kids and we will have some road hockey games. There will also be a nine-hole mini-putt courtesy of Mini-Putt and sponsored by the Hollinger Golf Course and Martin’s Transmission.
“We will have some Rock players — the healthy scratches for Saturday’s game — walking around in their jerseys, as well.”
With 25 players currently on the roster and only 20 being able to dress for games, that should ensure five players will be on hand to interact with the fans.
There will also be a food truck and a dunk tank on site for the tailgate party.
“Our players are certainly getting use to their roles in the community and doing some public outings,” Gooch said.
While the tailgating experience is only targeted for the home opener, the president notes if it proves successful the team might look at doing it again at some point in the future.
“We would absolutely love to see this grow,” Gooch said.
The addition of a tailgate party for the home opener is just one of a number of improvements the Rock have made for the 2018-19 NOJHL campaign.
“Every year we try to take a few steps forward,” Gooch said.
“This year, we have added higher-quality home and away jerseys and we have also added white helmets that will be worn with our white road jerseys. Our home fans will get the chance to see them during the second half of the season when we wear our white jerseys at home.”
The Rock focused this off season on adding skill and size to their lineup and they are icing a larger roster, as well.
“Our roster (25 players) to start the season is larger, for sure,” Gooch said.
“There may still be some changes as our general manager (Kevin Peever) and our coaches (Corey Beer, Marc Bisson and James Daschuk) evaluate things.”
This will mark the Rock’s fourth season back in Timmins and the organization is continuing to establish its footprint.
“We are committed to continuing to grow the program,” Gooch said.
“We want to show the people of Timmins we are here to stay and we are determined to be successful.
“Hopefully, one day — sooner rather than later — we will be able to bring a championship to Timmins and raise the banner at the McIntyre Arena.”