On Friday, the Brampton Battalion were eliminated from the playoffs with a 1-0 overtime loss to the Sudbury Wolves, marking the end of their 15-year stint in the Toronto area. The team will have a profile in North Bay that it never had in the crowded GTA market but it had a loyal band of fervent supporters such as Steve McLean (@SteveMc888). Those who frequent, or frequently lurk on, New OHL Open Forum (aka the NOOF) know him as battalionfan888. His dedication was such that he turned a labour of love — making highlight packs — into an official role with the team as its online video contributor. Following the last OHL game in Brampton, McLean wrote a heartfelt post on his ties to the Battalion, which he graciously agreed to let BTN republish.
January 24, 2003, I attended my first Brampton Battalion game. It was against the Barrie Colts and we lost 4-3. Wojtek Wolski scored the first Battalion goal I saw in person.
For a couple years after that I would go to a game here and there until the second half of the 2004-2005 season. I had been a Leafs fan growing up and with a lockout going on I turned to the next best thing and something that over time I realized was way better. I got to see my first Battalion win in January 2005 against Jeff Carter and the Soo Greyhounds less than a week after Carter had won gold with Team Canada at the world junior championship.
I was there the night we sold out against the powerhouse 2005 London Knights and gave them a helluva run for their money. In March 2005 I went to my first Battalion 'road' game watching Daren Machesney shutout the Mississauga IceDogs 1-0 with well over 40 saves. A week later I remember fuming at the Sudbury Wolves' game-tying goal in Game 1 of our first round series when Benoit Pouliot threw the puck into the net and Sudbury ended up winning in OT. When Brampton lost that series I was just as upset as I had been whenever the Leafs had been knocked out and the Battalion took over as my favourite team bar none. When the NHL came back that fall I simply didn’t care nearly as much.
2007-2008 was the first year I started going to games on a very regular basis, I should have bought season tickets that season since I only missed about five or six home games. That season is when I really started doing road trips. November 25, 2007 was my first real road trip going to see the Battalion play at the GM Centre in Oshawa (a 3-1 loss). A couple months later I went on a Battalion fan bus trip to Owen Sound and met [NOOF regulars] BATFAN1 and Troopfan1.
They were sitting right behind me on the bus when one of them asked my friend and I, "Which one of you guys is Battalionfan888?" We won 4-1 that night — my first road win outside of Peel Region. A week later I met SimonTheSignGuy, Jason Cormier, CharlieGirl49, DuctTape and a few others at the Kingston NOOF-A-PALOOZA as we jammed up the 401 to the Dick Twang Band.
I bought season tickets in time for the 2008-2009 season (good timing, eh?). I soon found out that not only in this very small fan base there was a person who shared the exact same name as me (spelling and the whole bit) but the next year when I started working for Air Canada Jazz at Pearson [Airport] he worked in the hangar across from me (small freaking world, eh).
I went to way too many games that season, hitting 20 of the 21 rinks that hosted OHL games that season (Ottawa being the only I didnt get to that season). I ended up attending 53 of Brampton's 68 regular-season games that season plus another 15 of the 21 playoff games in that amazing drive. I was there in Windsor that night we were eliminated and [Friday] night's OT goal was much of the same feeling.
Behind the famous Vellucci video
I remember in '08-09 I had some amazing road trips but the one that always sticks out to me was our trip to Saginaw and Plymouth in January that year. We won 3-0 in Saginaw, the next night we were up 3-0 in Plymouth in the third period when Mike Vellucci lost it after what should have been a good Whalers goal was called back, which led to his famous take off his tie ejection that was filmed and put on YouTube by yours truly. Plymouth came back and tied the game 3-3 and sent it to OT before Cody Hodgson had what I still consider one of the greatest shots I've ever seen to win it in OT 4-3. There were about four of us Brampton fans there that night and as the team left the ice they gave us the stick salute... amazing.
Just a couple other road trip memories I would like to share among the dozens and dozens of them.
Being in Barrie the night [in 2010-11] we pounded the last-place Colts 9-3, usually beating such an inferior team would be celebrated so much but considering what we had gone through against Barrie, you can’t blame me. This season on my birthday [Dec. 1, two weeks after the Battalion’s move was approved by OHL governors — Ed.] a few of us went to our game in Niagara. Brampton had lost 10 straight at the Jack going into the game and I had not seen Brampton win there since my first trip in February 2008, a stretch of about seven games for me. We were down 3-2 after two before storming back to score four goals in the third including a Barclay Goodrow penalty shot to win the game 6-5, one of the best birthdays ever.
Of course the greatest night was April 24, 2009 when we won the Eastern Conference title, I haven’t hugged that many people in one day again until [Friday] night.
Now I wanna say thank you but before I do I must reveal something about myself that I know many people here know already but I want to say it to everybody so I can thank the team properly.
‘They will still be the Battalion’
I put Battalion highlights together on YouTube for a few years from 2008 until February 2011 when I began doing it directly for the team. My name is Steve McLean and for the past two seasons I have put together all the highlight videos for battalionhockey.com.
I want to thank especially Phil Ercolani [the team's manager of marketing, sales and media relations] and [Battalion president] Mike Griffin for letting me do this. I know the front office staff of this team has been given a lot of heat for not trying but being in that office and seeing what these guys have to work through every day gives you a whole new appreciation for the job they have here in Brampton.
A lot of other front office people like Megan McClelland, Erin Meagher, Matt Rabideau, Amanda Stavro and all the interns. I wanna thank Doug Ball for letting me use his camera game after game so we can shoot our post-game wraps.
Jason Davidson, our PA announcer, I've become good friends with him as he and I have shot dozens of videos in the past two years. Doug Anderson [the team’s TV play-by-play broadcaster on Rogers Television] started taking part in these videos at the start of the season and I've become good friends with him as well as [colour commentator] Peter Kourtis, Laura Barney, Steve Perko, John Grant, Stuart McComish, Trevor Miller and several others.
All the people in Section 14 where I've spent the past few seasons. Especially my fellow Brampton NOOFers... Richard3rd... thanks for the tunes.
Ian, Matt, Simon... everybody it's been so much damn fun and ever since that OT goal [Friday] night I've had just an empty feeling. I wouldn't wish this upon our biggest rivals.
Last but not least, I want to wish North Bay the best of luck. They will still be the Battalion and hence I will continue to cheer for them. I plan on being there opening night and you guys will have several Brampton fans on your side for those road games to the GTA .
Thanks for everything, everyone.
RIP Brampton Battalion