Yes! Whether we are talking Sault Ste. Marie or any other community where an OHL team plays, the community’s involvement is imperative. Hound Town explains the relationship between the community of Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Greyhounds but much of the same will apply to any community in any city in the OHL.
When Oshawa won the Memorial Cup in 2015, immediately following the game, some of the players said that one of the reasons they were happy to win it was for their community, which recently had a thousand workers laid off. They understood the importance of the event in uplifting the spirit in the community. In 2015, Belleville, Ontario, and Plymouth, Michigan, lost their OHL teams after having an OHL franchise in their communities for years. Other cities have lost their teams and it can take years of trying before they are able to attract a new franchise. Our closest example is North Bay, which lost its team for eleven years before the Brampton Battalion agreed to move its franchise there.
There are also significant psychological benefits. Besides the entertainment value during our long winters, as members of the community we have a vested interest in our home team. Because of the hard work of our players and our familiarity with them, we care.
Margaret Carlisle Duncan spoke about the symbolic dimensions of spectator sport. Millions of people commit passionately to their sports as spectators, and we are either thrilled or antagonized, but always deeply involved. Often, we give up time to ensure the best seats possible for a sporting event that is important to us. Personal discomfort is also endured, on occasion, to see our favorite team play. The influence of sport is far-reaching. The appeal of our favorite players transcends the game. They become successful in selling products and in chosen professions when their playing days are over. We have all heard songs, read books, or spread myths generated by spectator sports. These legitimize metaphors and authority figures for many areas of public life. Sport is compelling. How do we explain it? What is the meaning for us that makes it so compelling? (Ducan. Quest, 1983) It is more than entertainment; we have a stake in it.
Next week, I answer the following question: Is Hound Town a good recruiting tool for players interested in advancing the dream of playing in the NHL?