By Adam Biggers
Flint needed a boost, especially within its dying hockey scene. Luckily, that kick came Wednesday, as the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers announced that they’d be moving north in time to start the 2015-16 season at Flint’s Perani Arena—which is just minutes from my home.
Needless to say, I’m excited about the move. I’m from the area and fondly remember going to Flint Generals, Spirit and Bulldogs games. After parting ways with The Flint Journal, I even spent a little time writing for the Michigan Warriors, a North American Hockey League team that took over Perani after the Generals folded in 2010.
Part of me loves hockey.
However, these days, college basketball, college football and baseball of all forms top my list, but back in the in the early 1990s, hockey ruled my world. As a whole, in terms of the sport’s strength in Genesee County, the ‘90s were a damn good decade. I had it all—the Wings were gaining power and quality local pro hockey was just a shot east on I-69.
Those were some of the best days. I remember practicing at Perani during my freshman year at Swartz Creek. We played there too—once against Grand Blanc and once against Kearsley, which had a too-big-for-local-high-school Swede or Fin that scared me out of my goalie pads.
I can barely skate these days (ask the Warriors), but I still collect memorabilia like it’s a job and hold the sport near and dear to my heart. My inner adolescent is smiling today. That said, I might go throw on the Alexander Daigle sweater and pretend that it’s 1992 (yes, I have one).
Flint will once again have great hockey, something that’s been missing since the Generals bid us a fond farewell during their Turner Cup Finals appearance in 2010. The loss to the Ft. Wayne Komets was our last glimpse at quality pro hockey, and once the NAHL moved into Perani, it seemed as if we’d never have a pro team.
But the rumor mills started to swirl. The Junior Generals, an area staple which essentially became a feeder for the Warriors, were recently sold and people started talking about how the Warriors were on their last leg—a thought I’ve had since they arrived. Ownership never connected with the community, and without that bond, that type of junior hockey wasn’t going to succeed here. It had to be something of the pro/high-level junior variety, preferably something like the OHL.
Now we have it.
Sarnia is about an hour away—it has an OHL team. Saginaw, a natural “adversary” of Flint, is home to the Spirit.
Imagine the I-75 rivalry.
Trust me, I’ve thought about it since I initially heard whispers a few weeks ago. Wasn’t sure it was going to happen, but I was hopeful nonetheless. Once again, people will try to park for free at Target. Once again, Lapeer and Center will be jammed (so will the back way of Dort and Lapeer—so don’t try it), and once again the rink will be packed for a big Friday night of hockey.
Note: I'll post some name ideas within the next few days. If you have suggestions, hit me on Twitter @AdamBiggers81