There is a community in northern New Brunswick that Jay Onrait formerly of TSN and now of Fox Sports 1 described as one of “Canada’s best kept secrets.” The problem is that despite some brief flirtations with notoriety and relevance, Bathurst and most of Northern New Brunswick has remained just that… A Secret. This is despite it’s beautiful rarely interrupted, coastline. Despite the way the sun glows over the Nepisiguit basin in the morning or the evening as you turn the corner on hole 14 at Gowan Brae, despite probably the most hospitable people that you’ll ever meet, and where fresh seafood means “caught earlier in the day.” The North is undeniably blessed with unflinching natural beauty; however, through many hardships and pitfalls, The North is, unfortunately, more synonymous with “hard times” and “economic struggle.”
These hard times have caused some fractures within the identity of what once was a much more collective community identity. There is, however, a unique opportunity within the region. Despite its size and its recent hardships, the region features a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team. Apart from an NHL team which only seven cities in the entire country can boast about having, this is the most competitive and entertaining hockey on the continent. The team in its first years managed to make it to the Memorial Cup the hardest trophy to win in hockey. Unfortunately since then, through ownership issues and disappointing on-ice performances the team fell into disrepair and the community drifted away from the rink, going their separate directions and never finding a real place to come together, again.
Rise of the Titan
The Titan over the last few years has gone through a major transformation, with a wholesale ownership change, involving local business owners banding together to purchase the team and keep it in the region. As well the Titan now have a new brand and logo, the team has truly been reborn. Everyone in The North keeps searching for a catalyst to bring the community together; I propose that it has been there since the late 90’s. The Titan are undeniably a big deal, the level of hockey, the alumni that the team can brag about include NHL Superstars Patrice Bergeron, Roberto Luongo, and Mathieu Perreault, as well as home town hero and part-owner Sean Couturier. The community and the team have no shortage of things to be proud of. An active role in the community by an organization with such strong potential for success could be the driving force behind not only the community coming together but also the propulsion needed to showcase the region across the entire country.
Without a doubt, there is a great deal beyond a hockey team that is required to bring a community together. Community engagement and participation need to be paid back in kind, but I believe that there is no stronger potential to build around than the one that takes the ice at the KC Irving Arena. By being leaders in the community, the Titan can promote that sense of ownership and loyalty that the best franchises and communities in the world enjoy.
As an example, the Edmonton Oilers have been losing longer than the Titan have been in Bathurst. A long time ago the community rallied around the team and decided that it was their team. They sometimes hated the people that ran the team, but it was never Peter Pocklington’s team, and it may never “really” be Daryl Katz’s team. The Oilers’ organization does a fantastic job of pushing the faces of their franchise. Either by having them pushed into the community, through showing up at schools to help with reading, gym class, and giving talks on dedication and hard work. The Oilers become pillars in the community, sure sometimes Edmontonians will provide them with some criticism but they’ll also be the first to defend them too. Despite the consistent short falls of the Oilers the barn is always sold out and even sitting down in a Bruins jersey you are met with people who warmly welcome you into what they feel is their home. The Titan can capture this fire; it just takes the passion and dedication of the organization and the community to keep it burning.
Defending the Bay
The Titan have that unique power to bring The North to the rest of the country. A competitive team with a passionate fan base, especially one where other baggage is left at the doors of the arena is a great story, and one that I hope gets to be told!