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Longtime border hockey rivalry revived

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Those not willing to remember the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

It’s the clear message being sent by Muskie boys’ hockey head coach Jamie Davis in light of Monday’s announcement that the black-and-gold will face their cross-border counterparts, the International Falls Broncos, for the first time in four years this Monday (Feb. 8) at 6:15 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.

“Rekindling a healthy rivalry is the goal,” Davis said about the rebirth of the exhibition match-up that last was played in 2012.

That was when unruly behaviour by spectators, which had been brewing over several seasons, escalated in both the stands and the arena parking lot to the point that the annual event was dropped—until now.

“School spirit is great and it’s OK to be patriotic and passionate, but let’s do it the right way so we don’t have to go through this process again one day,” Davis stressed.

“It’s really for the 40 kids that get to play on the ice,” he reasoned.

“We want them to remember this experience for the rest of their lives in a positive way.”

The road to resurrecting the game was a long one—filled with much negotiating over what needed to be in place in order for it to go off with as little off-ice shenanigans as possible.

“We’re prepared for the worst,” Davis conceded.

“But we’re anticipating it’s going to be a great time, a great game, a great atmosphere and I hope everyone is there for the right reasons and go home feeling good about it, regardless of the outcome of the game,” he remarked.

Tickets, which will be available at the door only, will cost $7 for adults and $5 for students, with kids under 12 being free.

Season passes apply.

As well, U.S. money will be accepted at par only.

The Muskie Blueline Club, comprised of players’ parents, was required to craft a safety action plan in advance of the game.

It was submitted to school administrators and sent back with further requests and concerns that needed to be met before the game would be permitted to go ahead.

To that end, fans attending will see a much different game-day atmosphere in the Memorial Sports Centre.

When the doors open at 5:30 p.m., OPP officers will be stationed at the entrance and will bar anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol from entering.

They also will be checking for large bags, backpacks, and purses, as well as any outside food or drink—none of which will be allowed inside the building.

Students are asked to bring their school ID, driver’s licence, passport, or some other form of identification so they can be properly directed to the assigned seating being reserved in different sections of the arena for fans from both schools.

Children under 12 will be allowed to sit with a parent or guardian in a specially-reserved adult area.

Police also will be patrolling inside the Ice For Kids Arena during the game, along with the help of parent volunteers.

“To keep us and our spectators safe, there will be a ‘zero-tolerance’ rule implemented,” said a press release issued Monday.

“If anything is found on you, you will be escorted out of the arena,” it read.

“If you disrupt the game in any way, the game will be stopped and you will be escorted out.

“If you cannot support both teams in a positive manner, you will be removed from the building,” it stressed.

Davis stated that doesn’t mean that everyone at the game should be content to just sit on their hands.

“I’ve gone to rivalry games like the ones between Warroad and Roseau,” he noted.

“There had to be close to 1,300 people in the stands, and they’re fired up and ready to go.

“Students from both schools are there, there’s bands and cheerleaders, and it’s just a great sporting event,” Davis added.

“No one’s acting ridiculous and when the buzzer goes, the game’s over and everyone just goes home.”

The Muskie players reiterated their desire for fans to remain civil during the game by writing an open letter to the public.

“They wanted to tell the community, their fellow students, and supporters of both programs that they worked a long time to get this game and that they are fortunate to get the opportunity to play in the game,” said Davis.

“They would like to see everyone come out and be respectful fans,” he remarked.

“We want to create the right atmosphere for next Monday and for years to come.”

As for the game itself, Davis predicted it will be a challenge for this Muskie squad to cut into Fort High’s deficit in the all-time series, which stands in favour of the Broncos at 45-30-1.

“I’ve watched the Falls play this season, although not a lot,” he noted.

“I anticipate a good game. . . .

“You look at previous years when the Muskies had the better team and the Broncos won the game, and vice-versa,” Davis said.

“The Broncos skate well, they work hard,” he added. “It should be back-and-forth and some great, quality hockey.

“I think they’ll be physical with us in the beginning, as these games usually start out, but we’ll be fine,” Davis pledged.

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