Second-annual OHL/QMJHL charity clash comes to Timmins in September

In support of youth mental health, the rare interleague game will take place Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at McIntyre Arena

Jordan Horrobin
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When Ian Clermont walked into McIntyre Arena for the first time last September, he was amazed at how many fans he saw wearing merchandise of junior hockey teams from hundreds of kilometres away.

Clermont, the administrative director for the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, was in Timmins for a charity exhibition game between his Huskies and the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. Timmins was a logical host for the unusual interleague game, given its location roughly between the two major junior hubs.

It wasn’t just a logical host, though. It was an effective one, drawing a standing-room crowd of nearly 2,000. Exhibition games often struggle to replicate the excitement of the regular season – but for Timmins, this was a rare chance to host the world’s highest level of junior hockey.

“The people were cheering for the play, not for a specific team,” Clermont said. “And the players liked that so much because an exhibition game is not boring, but it’s not so intense. But if you get out of the box and do something like (play in Timmins), it’s something special.”

On Tuesday, Sudbury and Rouyn-Noranda announced they’ll return to McIntyre Arena this fall (and perhaps many falls afterward) for a sequel. The game, hosted by the United Way Centraide North East Ontario in partnership with Bell Let’s Talk, will take place Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m., with proceeds going to support youth mental health in Timmins.

Most of the money will be donated to the Youth Wellness Hub in Timmins, which works with local groups (e.g. Timmins Public Library, YMCA Timmins, Living Space, etc.) to offer counselling services, peer support, mental health information and more to people aged 12-25 years old. Last year’s event raised over $15,000.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 70 percent of mental health problems begin during childhood or adolescence.

A portion of the event’s proceeds will also be donated to the Timmins Rock Junior ‘A’ team, which helps run the event by staffing the ticket office, running game day operations, etc. inside The Mac, which is their home arena. It’ll be a busy weekend at The Mac, with a pair of Rock home games on Saturday and Sunday following Friday’s OHL/QMJHL exhibition.

“We’re happy to do it,” Rock president Ted Gooch said. “And happy to have them here to play a game of that magnitude.”

Gooch was in the stands at last year’s game, a 7-6 shootout win for Sudbury. That won’t be easy to top, but surely fans will be eager to see Rouyn-Noranda, who won the Memorial Cup in May, and Sudbury’s Quinton Byfield, the reigning CHL Rookie of the Year. The Huskies will bring the Memorial Cup and the President’s Cup (awarded to the QMJHL champion) to The Mac for photo opportunities.

There is plenty of hope that a Rouyn-Noranda/Sudbury game can become a yearly staple in Timmins. Sudbury owner Dario Zulich views it as a budding rivalry across provinces and cultures.

“The Anglophones and the Francophones,” Zulich said. “We all love each other but at the end of the day, we’ve got different coloured jerseys.”

While suggesting that this could be the beginning of a decades-long arrangement, Zulich turned to Mayor George Pirie and added, “Hopefully in a new arena, Mr. Mayor.”

Pirie did not shy away from the suggestion. In fact, he responded with a bold claim of his own.

“We will always be in favour of hosting this,” Pirie said. “In fact, hopefully it’s a lever that will gain support to try to hopefully get a franchise here in the Quebec Major (Junior) Hockey League. It just makes a lot of sense for us to be in that league.”

Bringing major junior hockey to Timmins is a discussion that will have to wait for another time. But for one day this September, it will exist in Timmins in the form of a high-energy matchup between Sudbury and Rouyn-Noranda.

“It was a tremendous success last year,” Pirie said. “Again, it’s just another event that brings the city together.”

Tickets for the game can be purchased online at the Timmins Rock website,