Who to cheer for in Halifax

A quick scorecard on the upcoming sports year.

click to enlarge It’s your fave, Cliff Clinkscales. - SUBMITTED
It’s your fave, Cliff Clinkscales.

It’s a season of change in the Halifax sports scene. A new professional soccer team is coming in April, the never-ending stadium debate continues while rumours of Canadian Football League intensify and the Scotiabank Centre is getting a new sheet of ice ahead of a major hockey tournament.

It’s a year of promise and hope in Halifax as the city prepares to be in the national spotlight. Here’s the scoresheet on who you’ll be cheering for:

Halifax Mooseheads
In May, Halifax will host the Memorial Cup, a tournament for the winners of Canada’s three junior hockey leagues. As host, the Moose-heads are automatically in the four-team tournament.

This season is full of promise and high expectations as the team looks to avoid the disappointment of last season when Halifax was swept by the Charlottetown Islanders in the second round. But that may be tricky, as the Mooseheads may not have the services of their superstar from last year, Filip Zadina—the forward from the Czech Republic was drafted sixth overall by the Detroit Red Wings in June. There’ll be no shortage of star power, though, after Halifax traded for Antoine Morand and Jordan Maher, a pair of players that won the Memorial Cup last year with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. With lots of time to prepare for the tournament, there’s a good chance that more trades are on the way for what promises to be one of the most exciting junior hockey teams in the country.

Fans will have to wait longer than usual to see the team play, as the Scotiabank Centre is currently under construction. For the first time in 40 years, a new ice slab is being installed. This means the Herd plays 15 games on the road before its home opener on October 27, on the freshest ice in town.

Halifax Hurricanes
Halifax’s professional basketball team has made it to the league finals in three straight years but only have one championship to show for it after losing to the London Express the last two seasons. Coach Mike Leslie is back for his third season at the helm and fan-favourite point guard Cliff Clinkscales is also back for his fifth year of professional basketball in Halifax. East Preston’s Terry Thomas, a former Canadian university standout, was acquired from the Moncton Magic in August and should be a star in his return home.

The roster and schedule haven’t been announced yet, but the Hurricanes should be ready to roll in mid-November when the Canadian Basketball League season typically starts.

University hoops
For the third straight year, the U Sports Final 8 men’s basketball tournament will take place at the Scotiabank Centre. Dalhousie will host the 2019 event, then Ottawa in 2020 and back to Halifax for three straight years.

The Saint Mary’s Huskies chances of winning an Atlantic University Sport championship got a lot better with the addition of Nevell Provo. The point guard left home in North Preston at age 13 to play basketball and spent the last three seasons with the NCAA Division 1 team Loyala-Maryland Greyhounds in Baltimore, before transferring back to Nova Scotia this summer.

SMU women’s hockey new home
The Saint Mary’s University women’s hockey team won its third consecutive AUS title in March but will have to chase another title from a new home. The SMU alumni arena was torn down and in its place, a new rink with an NHL-sized ice surface and more seating is going in. In the meantime, the women will play at the Halifax Forum and Civic Arena until the new rink is ready for the 2019-2020 season.

Future soccer home
The brand-new Canadian Premier League is scheduled to start in April 2019 and it includes Halifax Wanderers FC. The team will play at the Wanderers Grounds, near the Public Gardens, in a temporary pop-up stadium. While the team won’t be ready to go until the exam-crunch, the stadium is up and has already been the site of a couple big-ticket events, including two international rugby test matches and a soccer game featuring a youth team from Germany’s top league.

The site will also host a derby day double-header as the men’s and women’s soccer teams from Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s play on September 7.

More pro teams coming?
Ever since a deal for a Canadian Football League team fell through in 1984, the rumours of professional football in Halifax have continuously popped up. But to have a team, a stadium is needed. Over the summer, city council voted in favour of entering talks with the provincial government and Maritime Football Ltd.—a group that wants to bring a team to the city—to look at options for a new stadium. If it happens, it won’t be for a few more years, so there’s lots of time to come up with a cringe-worthy east coast sports team name. 

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