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Halifax hockey houses a hit

For sports fans, nothing compares to the congregation that occurs before an important game or after a big win.

This year’s University Cup, the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s hockey championship, recognized the need for fans to come together and gave them the platform to do so. Each team that participated in the University Cup was assigned a Halifax bar as a “home base.” Students, alumni and fans were all encouraged to attend these bars — before and after their teams played — to celebrate, share stories and shoot the breeze.

UNB’s hockey house was The Stubborn Goat, a gastropub that featured a wide variety of local craft beer and a tantalizing food menu. The setup was ideal, eliminating the need to meticulously coordinate with others before the game to find out where celebrations would occur. All attendants were in good cheer — especially after UNB victories.

This was the attitude and impression received at all the hockey houses scattered throughout downtown Halifax. School colours could be seen from fans and players at downtown restaurants, malls and hotels — all of which were within walking distance of Scotiabank Centre.

The Scotiabank Centre itself, the 10,500 seat home of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Mooseheads, created some decent atmospheres throughout the tournament with most of the upper bowl curtained off. Crowds were respectable with the announced attendance being around 3,000 to 3,500 for most games. 5,504 watched last Friday’s game between host StFX and No. 1 seeded Alberta.

Being just a few hours away from Fredericton, the Varsity Reds had one of the largest fan bases in attendance. They made their presence known, making plenty of noise when UNB hit the ice before each game.

Other fan attractions at this year’s University Cup included the Hockey Canada Century Tour, located downtown, which showcased a collection of hockey awards and memorabilia from the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Scotiabank Hometown Hockey exhibit located above the arena box office which featured artifacts that salute North American hockey at the grass-roots level.

While things may not have gone the way tournament organizers had hoped on the ice with both Nova Scotia teams being eliminated in the quarterfinals, things seem to run rather smoothly off it. Organizers will have a chance to improve on things when Saint Mary’s hosts next year’s tournament at Scotiabank Centre.

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