O’Connell, O Canada set winning stage

NORTH BAY, Ont. — A raucous Memorial Gardens crowd of 2,848, aided by a touch of Hollywood celebrity, cheered the North Bay Battalion’s season-opening 5-2 Ontario Hockey League victory Friday night over the Barrie Colts.

Actor Jerry O’Connell, a fixture in North Bay in the summer that ended late Friday afternoon, conducted the ceremonial faceoff for the Battalion’s 20th season opener with Shannon Unger of Re/Max Legend Realty, the presenting sponsor of the game.

O’Connell, who left centre ice to chants of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” then donned a Battalion green helmet and made his way, albeit somewhat precariously, with mascot Sarge to the south end of the ice to join pupils from M.T. Davidson Public School in singing the national anthem.

O’Connell, who received the key to the city from Mayor Al McDonald on Thursday, watched the first half of the game from owner Scott Abbott’s box, vowing he’d return for the Troops’ second home game, Wednesday night against the Sudbury Wolves.

Before the game, fans availed themselves of a beer garden and rides in a balloon adorned with the Re/Max logo. There also was a competition for the fastest shot, with entrants making a minimum $2 donation to KidSport North Bay. The winner received an autographed Battalion stick.

O’Connell, a 43-year-old New York native who described himself as a former goaltender and a fan of the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, has been shooting Carter, a 10-episode television police drama, for Bravo since July.

A resident of Los Angeles who has been effusive in his praise of North Bay, he made his feature film debut in 1986 in Stand By Me, based on a Stephen King story.

The Troops stood by one another, garnering their first win in a home opener since Sept. 24, 2004, when they defeated the Guelph Storm by the identical 5-2 score at Brampton.

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