Big hockey games on TV and bad weather didn't stop the Simcoe County Rovers from getting a big crowd for their successful 2023 season home openers.
The men’s and women’s Rovers squads played their first home games of the season at Georgian College’s J.C. Massie Field on Saturday and hoped to replicate their success from last year.
The 2022 season was the club’s first and saw both teams make the playoffs and do so in front of decent home crowds.
Some off-season moves have made both teams more dynamic and explosive on offense, and it showed yesterday as the women beat Guelph Union 5-1 in the afternoon game and the men defeated Master’s FA 6-0 in the evening half of the doubleheader.
Rovers co-owner Peter Raco told BarrieToday he was overjoyed at the results, but it was the success off the pitch he was more excited about.
“We were up against cold, rainy weather, the Barrie Colts and the Leafs both in the playoffs and on TV and we were able to get a great crowd here today,” said Raco.
“We said when we started this club that we knew this was a hockey town and we would have to change the culture,” said Raco. “Hey, go Colts go! I’m a Colts fan, too. I want all sports in the region to thrive, and that means getting the Rovers into the fabric of the city and it's clear we’re doing that.”
Approximately 200 fans were on hand to watch the men’s game with the women’s a little less due to the pouring rain, but Brandon Uhle is happy with what he is seeing.
Uhle is the creator of the Barbarriens, the Rovers supporters group.
“You can tell us by the blue smoke after a goal and the chants and drum beating,” said Uhle.
Uhle is a lifelong soccer fan and explained the culture of the supporters group.
“I live in Barrie and have travelled around to many soccer games over the years. When I say where I’m from, people tease that we’re all uncultured country folks up here, as if the city isn’t a growing vibrant one,” said Uhle. “So we lean into it and if they want to think we’re like that, then we are the Barbarriens.”
The supporters club is one of very few that travels to away games making noise for the Rovers and Uhle wants to see more people come out and stand with them, making noise.
“I think that's one of the best parts of the game, the chanting and making noise. We get on the opposition, we cheer our teams, we pretty much are ready to chant whatever makes the day fun,” said Uhle.
Devon is a 12-year-old footy fan who said besides the snacks, he loves the goals.
“I like soccer games because they’re so loud and you can cheer a lot of fun things at the teams. I also like the snacks and treats, but mainly I like to hear the older fans singing soccer songs,” said Devon.
Rovers midfielder Brianne Desa scored two of her team’s goals Saturday and said she was happy with the performance and mindset of the whole team.
Desa has been with the club since its inception and sees big things for the club.
“I came here wanting to be part of something great, on and off the field. It's definitely a special place to be. Everyone is already like family and fans are supportive,” said Desa. “As a team, we hope to make it further in the playoffs this year and really contribute to the club’s growth.”
The women’s next home game is Sunday, May 21 at 2:30 p.m. against Alliance United.
The men’s next home game will be Sunday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. as they host the Woodbridge Strikers.
Tickets for both games can be found here.
Anyone looking to find out more about the Barbarriens supporters club can contact them here.