The Brandon Wheat Kings spent the afternoon practicing on 'Memorial Cup Ice' on Thursday.
It was Brandon's first spin on the new surface installed at Westman Communications Group Place for the big event, which begins a week from Friday.
"It's obviously pretty exciting, you can hear the excitement in my voice just thinking about it," said Wheat Kings' defenceman Travis Hamonic after Thursday's lengthy workout, "Next Friday is going to be a significant night in a lot of lives and a lot of our hockey careers, and not only for us but for the City of Brandon. I think the everyone is going to be pretty excited about it."
"It's been a long time coming. We've been working hard all year for this and we're really looking forward to it," adds Brandon product Mark Schneider, "Today was the first time on the Memorial Cup Ice, if you want to call it. It's pretty surreal right now, it's a great opportunity and I'm really looking forward to it."
With the start of the 10-day event just a week away, Memorial Cup fever is starting to hit Brandon and Schneider says it's something the players definitely notice.
"I've been noticing a lot of Memorial Cup signage, and painted windows and that kind of stuff and it's great to get the community involved in something like that," says Schneider, "It's a great honour to be from Brandon and get a chance to play for the Wheat Kings and in front of your home crowd every night but the Memorial Cup on its own is a prestigious tournament and I'm really looking forward to playing in it."
The Wheat Kings already know who'll the face in their opening game next Friday.
It'll by the Ontario Hockey League winning and defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires.
"There's an old saying that to be the best, you have to beat the best," says Hamonic, "It's going to be a big test for us, they're a good team. For us, as the Wheat Kings, I think we're going to be ready for it."
The other two participants in the Memorial Cup have yet to be determined.
Calgary holds a 3-1 lead over the Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League Final heading into Game #5 on Friday in Calgary while Moncton has a 2-1 lead over Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Final with Game #4 Friday in Moncton.
Chaff...both Brayden Schenn and Darren Bestland practiced with the wheat kings Thursday, although Bestland wore a full face shield to protected what is believed to be a fractured orbital bone. That meant all 24 players were on the ice for Brandon on Thursday...the last Memorial Cup game the Wheat Kings were involved in was May 18, 1996, when the club lost 4-3 in the semifinal to the host Peterborough Petes.