An Open Letter To The Cornwall Hockey Fan

So Sportsnet is bringing its big shiny Hometown Hockey production to our fair city. Ron McLean and Tara Slone are lucky to be broadcasting from a city with such a rich and interesting hockey history. (And if you don’t know why, go do your research. Or have a chat with Thom Racine. You won’t regret it.)

Of course, that brings a smile to everyone’s face but I think we need to be reminded of some things.

Every sports loving citizen of the city of Cornwall should be well versed in the historical nature and importance the sport of hockey has had on it’s footsteps. A long and sometimes per petulant journey to win over the masses, Cornwall hockey is in a breed and distinction of its own. Not just because of players who have come and gone, fans who have cheered, cried or hell, thrown beer cans. But because of that face one gives you when you bring up Cornwall and hockey in the same breath. You know the one. It’s a mix of fear and more recently, a slight bit of disgust.

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But we love it.

We thrive on being the outcast. We thrive on being the unwanted. It’s how we grew up. It’s what we know. We left our dreams at center ice on the rinks in the parks of Mattice, King George, 8th Street, Optimist, and Reg Campbell among others. Throwing our sticks into a pile and one by one having them re-emerge as the National Hockey League player we were going to be that day. A select few of us were Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic or Sergei Federov. A player of a high skill. But most of us knew we didn’t have those kinds of hands. No, instead we were another set all together. We were Wendel Clark, Bob Probert, Tie Domi, Theo Fleury. Players we felt were one of us.

Some of us were guys we got to see every week. Mike Hurlbut, Serge Roberge, Josef Marha, Aaron Miller and Paxton Schulte each made us believe that Cornwall hockey will always have a place, however misguided and undesired by some it might be.

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The outcast and the unwanted.

There’s no better way to burst that stigma then to be an Ontario team in a Quebec league. I’m sure there was plenty of cursing going on when our Comets won the senior league championship. Only Ontario team in the mix and we proved our little city belonged with the big boys.

Not just us either. Our friends to the south own the distinction of being the Federal Hockey League’s first ever champions. I was there the night the Akwesasne Warriors won that Cup and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Turtle Dome that packed for a hockey game. After a brief absence, it was nice to have a winning atmosphere back in the community.

Lately, Cornwall fans have worn the distinction of being the unwanted with pride on a couple of occasions. Whether you agree with how some go about it or not, there’s one thing that never changes here. Passion.

And passion describes a very important part of the fanbase that’s fleeting. They’re the ones who sit in the stands and remind you of when they saw Maurice Richard at the Water St. Arena. Or when a then superstar kid from Brantford lit up the Ed Lumley with Team Canada. How about when Cornwall cemented its legacy in hockey history with back to back Memorial Cup wins?

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The Royals and their second straight Memorial Cup in 1981.

These stories need to never die.

And as much as we want to erase the River Kings fiasco, it’s now part of our hockey history. Its story very much needs to be told to serve not only as a reminder of how ugly things can get between a team, its city, its fans and more but to show that we never once lost sight of the fact that hockey brings us together in many ways. Everyone wants to remember the bad. Nobody wants to remember the good. And there was a sure lot of good things that also took place. What other fan base have you heard of that collected money to pay the players themselves? I bet that hasn’t happened often.

And some stories need to be followed.

With a solid developing system in place thanks to the CCHL, the Cornwall Colts will be churning out tons of collegiate players to the fold. Did I mention in our own backyard? NHL teams are looking at Junior A teams more then ever so it would be wise of the Cornwall fan to have their eye peeled on the ice. Speaking of Cornwall stigma, there’s one behind Cornwall hockey fans and the Colts. There’s no reason why one can’t take in a game here in there if you’re a hockey fan. There’s more hitting then you think. The Cornwall Colts fill the outcast and unwanted void more then words can describe. That’s not a good thing.

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(Photo: icelevel.com)

And new stories need to be told.

The Federal Hockey League, however wishy-washy it may be, has put trust in the Cornwall market. This is a special time for the Nationals and a special time to be a fan. You’ve stuck through every other team through thick and thin so why stop now? Stop saying things that will bite you in the behind if they come out blazing out of the gates.

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The Cornwall Nationals are a story that is waiting to be told. Who is going to tell it if there’s no one in the stands? No one in the stands to witness what could become a Cinderella story in the making. That’s the beauty of hockey. Things change by the minute.

So, with the news that Ron McLean and Sportsnet’s Hometown Hockey will be making a stop here in March of 2018, I challenge every Cornwall hockey fan to not be fake when you’re out there cheering and smiling for the big jumbo screens. Go to some hockey games in your city. Cheer on the Nationals, support the Colts, watch the Ontario Hockey Academy teams at the Benson Centre, check out the SLC Sharks as the go for the umpteenth championship, support the Typhons, support Junior B. The list goes on.

We live in a world that gets crazier by the day; sometimes it’s nice to have something like hockey to believe in.

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