The renovated Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre got its first taste of a big-time sporting event on Monday night.
And, by all accounts, the 1,000-seat main rink in the new building proved a suitable venue.
The Toronto Marlies defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 2-0 in front of a sold out crowd of 1,258.
The American Hockey League exhibition game was played in Brantford as part of the Bulldogs efforts to expand the team’s fan base.
The event, which saw the Bulldogs partner with the Brantford Church Hockey League, was a red-hot ticket leading up to the event.
“I had people all week long begging for tickets, but I didn’t have any left,” Mayor Chris Friel said. “I thought I was going to be early at 6 p.m., but the lineup was out the doors and around the corner.”
After the gates opened at 6 p.m., officials barely had enough time to usher in ticket holders before game time at 7 p.m.
Many of the spectators made the trip from Hamilton to watch their Bulldogs play, but a majority of the crowd was made up of Brantford locals enjoying the top professional hockey league in North America during the NHL lockout.
“We had a great time,” Brantford’s Bryan Drury said. “We saw all kinds of people we know.”
Drury was at the game with his daughter, Alexis, 7, who plays hockey with the Brantford Girls Hockey Association. The association also benefitted from the night by collecting the proceeds from a 50-50 draw.
Drury said the city should have more large scale events at the new $63-million Gretzky centre facility.
That will happen in November.
The Sun Life Financial Masters Grand Slam of curling will see the Gretzky centre main rink packed for the weekend of Nov. 15 to Nov. 18 as the best curlers in the world take to the ice.