It had been 375 days.
From the moment the Belleville Senators franchise was announced to when they finally hit the ice for their American Hockey League debut.
A 3-0 loss on opening night to the Laval Rocket — who were also debuting as a new franchise — will do nothing to diminish the fact that Belleville is now home to the AHL.
The Senators, who will play their opening nine games of the season on the road, will compete in the North Division alongside the Rocket, Toronto Marlies, Binghamton Devils, Syracuse Crunch, Rochester Americans and the Utica Comets. In total, the Senators will play their division rivals 54 times throughout 2017-18.
With a blend of NHL veterans and youth, the Senators promise to be an exciting team to watch. Captained by the experience Mike Blunden, the roster features 14 who have played in the NHL. Out of the 25 players on the Sens’ roster, they’ve combined to play 3,215 AHL games.
There’s also those who had yet to play in the league. Defencemen Thomas Chabot, Christian Jaros and Max Lajoie all made their AHL debuts Friday night as did forward Filip Chlapik.
“It’s nice to have the veteran presence we have,” head coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. “Early on, the leadership is what runs the ship and then little-by-little you want your younger guys to take on bigger roles and responsibilities.”
The goaltending situation will see an experienced tandem man the pipes as Danny Taylor returns to North America for the first time since 2013 while Andrew Hammond looks to rebound after an injury-filled 2016-17 campaign. The team also has 2013 draft pick Marcus Hogberg and Chris Driedger.
“Our goaltending is going to be solid,” Kleinendorst said.
The Senators defence will feature an unbelievable group of talent featuring Chabot, Jaros, Lajoie, Andreas Englund, Erik Burgdoefer, Patrick Sieloff and Jordan Murray.
“Our defence is young but they have the potential to be very good defencemen,” Kleinendorst said. “We have offensive defencemen, some shutdown defencemen and we have guys who can play in all situations.”
Up front, Blunden leads an experienced group that features Max Reinhart, Ben Sexton, Kyle Flanagan, Jim O’Brien, Chris DiDomenico and Tyler Randell.
Chlapik, Gabriel Gagne, Vince Dunn, Max McCormick, Nick Paul, Francis Perron and Jack Rodewald headline a talented core of youth that will feature prominently in Belleville during the course of the season.
“Up front we have forwards that are capable of finding ways to score goals that can help us win games,” Kleinendorst said.
With 75 more games to play in the regular season, the Senators will be looking to make the Calder Cup playoffs in year one of the franchise’s history.
While in Binghamton, Ottawa’s AHL franchise only made the playoffs six times in 15 years although they did claim the Calder Cup championship in 2010-11.
In Belleville, they’ll look to make a playoff appearance a regular occurrence.
The Senators will return home to play their historic home-opener on Nov. 1 against the Syracuse Crunch, the opening game of a seven-game homestand over the first 15 days of November.
Season tickets, as well as half-season and 12-game packs, are still available while single-game tickets for home games in November and December can be purchased by clicking here.