Ken Peroff was 12 when the Ontario Hockey League’s North Bay Centennials left that Northern Ontario city to relocate to Saginaw, Mich. where they were renamed the Spirit.
Born in Sudbury and residing at the time in Chisholm Township, southeast of North Bay, Peroff remembered the feelings in the city as the Centennials’ final season wound down.
“The people were outraged, the people were thinking we were screwed over,” he said from Guelph where he is a third-year student at the University of Guelph. “They were really ticked off. I remember having a ‘Save the Cents’ poster in my room that people had been handing out at the games.”
Peroff, who would play 240 games as a defenceman over four OHL seasons with the Brampton Battalion, remembered what a big deal the Centennials were.
“It was huge in town. The crowds might not have been great, but you heard about the Centennials all the time. North Bay is the same kind of place as Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, they love hockey and they need something to watch. There will be a lot of support for an OHL team.
“I’d go to two or three games a season. My parents were both born and raised in Sudbury so we’d go when the Wolves came to town. I remember going to see Jason Spezza when he came to town with the Windsor Spitfires.”
Peroff said he had mixed emotions when he heard the Battalion would be relocating to North Bay beginning in 2013-14.
“I felt bad for the people I know in Brampton. But when you hear about the business side of it you think a move to North Bay makes sense. I am happy for the people in North Bay, especially the huge hockey fans I knew there. They deserve to have a team there, they really care about hockey. Economically, it should be great for the whole city.”
Peroff played many games at the Centennials’ former home, Memorial Gardens, a building that dates to 1955 and is slated to get a massive renovation in advance of the Battalion’s arrival.
“If they can make the Memorial Gardens a better venue that will be great. It is different from pretty much every other rink in the OHL. It has a ton of character, it is well lit and it can get really loud. I played all my high school games there and played inline hockey there in the summer. I would love to go back there for a game, especially early in the season. I can kill two birds with one stone, see my old junior team in my home town and get caught up with friends.”
A seventh-round pick in the 2005 OHL Priority Selection out of West Ferris High School in North Bay, Peroff played one season for the Jr. A North Bay Skyhawks before enlisting with the Troops for the 2006-07 season.
“We had all sorts of different teams during my time there and I had lots of different roles. I went from a guy who didn’t play much or would be a scratch to a guy who was relied on heavily by the end of my time.”
Peroff scored one goal and added two assists for three points in 45 games as a rookie and contributed 10 points, including one goal, in 67 games in 2007-08 as the Troops won the Central Division title, but were upset in five games by the Barrie Colts in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
“People say you have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. We thought we had a team that could compete for a conference championship and to lose like that you learn not to take things for granted. Sometimes it takes a missed opportunity like that to make you want to excel at your next chance.”
The Battalion made the most if its chance in 2008-09, claiming the Central and winning the conference only to lose in five games to the Spitfires in the OHL Championship Series.
“It was great that season because people started showing up to the games and the atmosphere in the city was great,” said Peroff, who recorded eight goals and 23 assists for 31 points in 63 games. “We were all on the same page, we all wanted the same thing and we were all willing to work for it. We were a really close group that had a lot of maturity.”
The following season, Peroff’s last, the Troops struggled to score, managing only 167 goals, fewest in club history, but excelled in their own end, surrendering 181, a club record for fewest goals allowed. Peroff remembered head coach Stan Butler noticing this disparity early on.
“We went from having one of the best offences in junior hockey to one of the worst. In training camp Stan came up to some of us on the back end and said he’d be really relying on us because we’d be winning a lot of 2-1 games. I talk to guys here in Guelph who all played in the OHL and they’d all say we were so hard to play because we worked hard and backchecked.”
Peroff led Battalion blueliners in scoring that season with five goals and 26 assists for 31 points. He is 10th on the club’s all-time games-played list and sits seventh in all-time scoring among defencemen with 15 goals and 60 assists for 75 points.
Peroff was recently named an Ontario University Athletic Association first-team All-Star. He said he enjoys squaring off against longtime Battalion teammate Brad Albert, who is in his third year at Carleton University. Albert was a fourth-round Battalion pick in 2005.
“I play against him now and it can be hard to take the games seriously playing against a guy who is such a good buddy. We came in together, sat next to each other in the room and left together. It was great to play all four seasons with him.”