Travellers to begin new Boxing Day tradition
The Delhi Travellers will head to Norwich for this year's Boxing Day Classic. This will be the first year in over a decade the team hasn't hosted a Boxing Day game. QMI Photo
Ontario's new junior hockey landscape has prompted the Delhi Travellers to alter a longstanding tradition.
When the Ontario Hockey Association eliminated Junior D and shuffled the deck in various Junior C leagues last summer, it left the Travellers and nearby Norwich Merchants in the same loop. Both franchises are hoping the proximity of both towns will create a natural rivalry.
To that end, the teams hatched a plan to share what was once a Delhi tradition of a Boxing Day Classic game.
The Midwestern Junior C League schedule has the two sides meeting five times per year, so the club with two home games will now host the Boxing Day clash. The contest will swap locations each season.
This year will be the Merchants' turn to host, meaning Friday will be the first Boxing Day the Delhi Community Centre hasn't seen a game in well over a decade.
“They asked us what we thought about that (deal) last year, because we asked them to come in right away for Boxing Day — we figured it would be a natural rivalry,” explained Delhi assistant general manager Ron Lazou.
“There was some resentment on some of it, but you have to do what you have to do. Crowds are way down for everybody.”
For many seasons, the Boxing Day Classic was Delhi's feature regular season contest. The Delhi franchise – in one form or another – generally played host to Langton, but when the Thunderbirds folded in 2006/07, it left a void that has yet to be filled.
“We had Burford in a couple times and Hagersville in a couple times, but it was never the same as Langton,” Lazou recalled.
“You could count on that Langton/Delhi Boxing Day game, close to a thousand people there.”
Not only did the two sides build a healthy dislike for each other over the years, but Langton would host a game close to Christmas before the two teams headed east to Tobacco Town.
“That's how it built the rivalry,” Lazou said. “It got to the point the two teams hated each other, it got really bad...you saw it all over the years.”
Lazou admitted it will be tough not seeing the 'Big House' in Delhi buzzing with activity the day after Christmas, but both teams see plenty of potential with their new Boxing Day direction.
“We didn't really want to do it, but we wanted to keep that (rivalry possibility) with them (Norwich) being the closest ...You've got to have that natural rivalry and I think Norwich is hoping to get it with us too,” Lazou said, adding he expects a strong crowd at the Nor-Del Arena.
“I think so, I can't see why it wouldn't, it's only 10 minutes up the road. It's not that far to go – some people coming from the country to the arena have that far to drive anyway. Hopefully they get a good crowd, it helps build up the rivalry and we get it again next year – back and fourth.”
Puck drop for Friday's game is at 2 p.m.
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