Queen’s Gaels look to veteran Major Junior presence

With another Ontario University Athletics hockey season back for another  year, the Golden Gaels of Queen’s University will look towards the veteran presence of former major junior players to lead the team to victory.

Former Peterborough Pete and 2014 OHL Champion Guelph Storm defenceman, Steven Trojanovic, spent last season with the Huskies of St. Mary’s University out in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The 22 year old for Burlington, Ontario put up impressive numbers in the Ontario Hockey League and should have been drafted into the NHL. (Overlooked with a +/- of +42?!) That being said, the NHL’s loss is now Queen’s University’s’ gain. A tower of 6’2 on the blue line combined with his ability to produce in needed games is a fantastic addition to the Gaels.

Two men from the east coast chose Queen’s as the educational destination that provided the most for the student-athlete. Former Mississauga Steelheads goaltender and a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jacob Brennan looks to make the most of both his academic and hockey career. Enrolled in engineering, Brennan was the starting goaltender for four years with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.  Just down the highway with the Moncton Wildcats, forward Shawn Bourdeau will trade his hometown of Kentville, Nova Scotia for Kingston, Ontario.

Absolutely no stranger to the city of Kingston is Slater Doggett. The 6’0 forward called Kingston home for two years in his OHL career as he suited up for the Frontenacs. His last OHL season saw him go almost a point a game with the Windsor Spitfires. After a minor attempt at pro hockey with the Alaska Aces in the East Coast Hockey League, Doggett saw himself falling back in love with Kingston for both his academic and university athletic career and will be a welcome home of sorts when he returns to the ice. As an added bonus, Doggett has been invited to the Chicago Blackhawks’ rookie camp.

Queen’s will start off the 2015-2016 season down the road on October 9th as they take on the Royal Military College Palladins.

The big home opening weekend comes on October 16th as the Gaels welcome the York University Lions to the Memorial Centre and October 17th as they welcome the Brock University Badgers.

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The Road To Professional Hockey: Michael Buonincontri

On the eve of his first professional season, Michael Buonincontri has seen quite a bit of the North American junior hockey landscape. Born into the legendary hockey city of Montreal, Quebec, it was a no brainer that Buonincontri’s parents put him in skates at three years old. Like any other Canadian kid, the game of hockey became an obsession and the dream of playing professional became the front runner in Buonicontri’s mind.

Buonicontri in Colorado.
Buonicontri in Colorado.

Working his skill and plying his trade throughout Montreal and a triple A league down in Colorado, Buonicontri looked up the courage of Saku Koivu to earn his place on the ice. Of course it helped that Koivu was captain of his favourite National Hockey League team too; the Montreal Canadiens. Koivu’s attribute of being a leader on and off the ice lead Buonincontri to adopt the number 11 as his own. A number he still wears today.

His play and determination was noticed. After a short stint with the Cornwall Colts of the Central Canada Hockey League, a rival team in the Smith Falls Bears pried him away. It was here, in this small community of 10,000 southwest of Ottawa, where Buonincontri excelled and made himself a name. “Smith Falls is a place where I was welcomed by everyone. Teammates, staff and fans,” Buonincontri said. “I felt at home and being in a comfortable environment I was able to translate the positivity onto the ice.” And translate he did. In his first two years with the Bears,

Bounincontri with Smith Falls. (photo: Jason Code)
Bounincontri with Smith Falls. (photo: Jason Code)

Buonincontri notched 56 points in 60 games. At almost a point a game player, his offensive ability started turning heads. A natural power forward, Buonincontri was starting to be compared to Montreal Canadiens sharpshooter Max Pacioretty. “I thank Mark Grady for giving me the opportunity that he did for me to succeed,” said Buonincontri. “I feel I was put in an important role and I was there to help the team win every night.” That role lead him an invitation to compete for Team Canada East however an injury before training camp put a stop to that. Faced with adversity seems to be his strong suit and he never let the injury bring him down. Good thing because important people were paying attention to his play and the phone started ringing.

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With Sioux Falls

Bounincontri jumped on the chance of gaining more experience with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League; a team that has graduated the likes of T.J. Oshie and Thomas Vanek into the NHL. A more defensive league, Buonincontri gathered not only hockey experience but valuable life experience in being so far from home in South Dakota. Along with it, he committed himself to St. Cloud State University. However, it was that little town in the middle of Ontario that was pulling on his heart strings. “I was kind of “team sick”. I missed my teammates, staff and fans back in Smiths Falls. It’s a place I felt the most at home. So decided to return.” Buonincontri returned with a vengeance and scored 29 points in 26 games. “The CCHL has grown to be in the top leagues in Canada and has graduated some very good players.” said Buonincontri of his time there.

With Prince George (Photo: Christian J Stewart)
With Prince George (Photo: Christian J Stewart)

As a prospect with St. Cloud State, Buonincontri had the chance to finish out his junior career in the British Columbia Hockey League with both the West Kelowna Warriors and the Prince George Spruce Kings. He stayed dominant and got involved with the community off the ice, no doubt a great quality to have on the heels of a University career. The BCHL fit right with the style of Buonicontri’s play. He exploded offensively and was a pivotal role in the Spruce King’s playoff run. “The BCHL is a very professional league. One of the most fun I had playing hockey with two great organizations.” Remembered Buonincontri. “The skill and compete level is as good as the USHL. There are a lot of great players but it’s the depth on every team is what separates those leagues from any other league I’ve played in.”

As his junior career ended, Buonincontri started to feel that the University route just wasn’t for him. He had the skill. He had the determination. He had the compete level. It was time to turn pro.

When Buonincontri de-committed from St. Cloud State, the offers started to pour in from North America. Teams in the East Coast Hockey League were jumping at the chance to land a powerhouse Canadian forward for their squad. The professional North American hockey market is a tough one to crack but Buonincontri would have had no problem. However, teams from across the pond came calling with better deals.

4ikiCHo9“It’s always been my dream to play professional hockey overseas.” laughed Buonincontri. He had a few to pick through but it was Les Corsaires De Dunkerque, a Division 1 team based in Dunkerque, France that became the right move for him. “They’re a great organization and well respected throughout the country of France,” continued Buonincontri. “My agent was in contact with them for a while and they showed the most interest. After talking to several people who played in France and doing my research on the club, I decided it would be a great fit for me to sign there.” No doubt that growing up in french centric Montreal also appealed to the brass in Dunkerque.

The hockey in France in definitely something to pay attention too. France in general is catching up in the IIHF rankings; they currently sit in 12th, just 100 points shy of the top ten.  The style of play in Division 1 will benefit from Buonincontri’s explosive offense. His ability to read the playand be two steps ahead of it is an asset Dunkerque will need to compete hard.

(Photo: Garrett James)
(Photo: Garrett James)

“I want to play professional hockey for as long as I can,” smiled Buonincontri. “My parents put me on skates at the age of three and I fell in love with the game.” As always with players, it’s family that usually makes the most sacrifices. “My family has been supporting me all my life and I owe all my success to them. I couldn’t be where I am today without their help.”

When the puck drops in this fall, Michael Buonincontri is set to take all of the experience he gained in the various junior leagues in North America to the bright white ice of Dunkerque, France. One thing’s for sure, this player is one to watch for many years to come.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

EDIT: Now they’re trying to back track. Come on guys, own up to it. P.S. I’m not “news” but thanks for the compliment.

You’ve got to be joking.

I’m trying really hard to like this team but every decision they make keeps turning me right off. We could talk about the coach, we could talk about signing a guy who’s highest level of hockey is Junior B, we could even talk about trying to sign a player that’s already been signed. I’ll refrain from those because they’re pretty much straight forward answers. Anybody who knows anything about hockey can come up with a smart opinion.

We could talk about the new logo.

Again, I won’t. While I don’t like it, I can get past it considering it’s not a logo that makes a club. It’s the players, wins, and championships that defines a team.

I’ve refrained from writing articles on each subject because quite frankly, I’m sick of being pessimistic about everything. However, every decision being made is keeping me that way.

Just when I think the team is starting to turn around, like being smart about giving Brennan Barker the captaincy this season, something stalls it.

This time is the Cornwall River Kings sad attempt at merchandise.

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What, in the hockey god’s name is this?!?

I get it. The team is strapped for cash so you’re trying to drum up some money by making merchandise. That’s a smart move as it’s worked out for many a team before. But out of the thousands upon thousands of hockey slogans that are out there, you mean to tell me that “HIT ‘EM IN THE WEINER!” is the best you came up with?!

It doesn’t even make sense! (Even for LNAH standards.) Come on, give your head a shake. How are you supposed to even take this team seriously with the words “hit them in the weiner”? You want that to be the first piece of merchandise people in the hockey world will see? Anybody who knows even the slightest bit of marketing knows this is stupid. (Obviously there isn’t because we wouldn’t have had another logo change.)

The response on social media has been quite frankly, utter digust and confusion. The team is supposed to shine a new era and get rid of the shortcomings of years past.

Look, it’s not hard.

Cornwall Colts – “Kick ICE Hockey!”
Ottawa 67s – “Hockey With Bite!”
St. John’s IceCaps – “We Stand Together.”
Coventry Blaze – “Bleed Blue.”
Pittsburgh Penguins – “It’s A Great Day For Hockey!”

And then there’s….

Cornwall River Kings – “Hit ‘Em In The Weiner!”

I rest my case.

By the way. If you can’t take criticism; get out of the hockey rink.

One on One with former Cornwall Royal, Jeff Reid

Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Sports Energy 

When it comes to the Cornwall Royals, fans always bring up the glory days of winning back to back Memorial Cups in the early 80’s. While that was a significant event in the team’s history, Cornwall had always iced a strong team until the early 90’s when the team was sold and relocated to Newmarket, Ontario.

(Photo: March Hockey collection.)
(Photo: March Hockey collection.)

Jeff Reid was a part of Cornwall’s last 3 seasons. Hailing from far away Owen Sound, Ontario, Reid started his hockey career like every other young lad in the country, following in his father’s footsteps. His days with the Junior B squad of the Owen Sound Greys led him to be drafted by Gord Woods and the Cornwall Royals in the 11th round.

Jumping at the chance to start his minor hockey career, Reid made the seven hour trek to the Seaway City and was placed with a passionate billet family, the Alexanders. “I had the same billet family the whole time I was there,” Reid recalls. “Mrs. Alexander really welcomed me and my roommates and made the transition of being away from home very easy.”

His first two years with the squad saw him play under the likes of Marc Crawford and John Lovell. Crawford taught them what it took to play professional hockey. “He participated in lots of the drills and would actually compete with us.”  Crawford, having just retired from professional hockey himself, was not afraid to compete with the team he was in charge of. “Many times he would finish his checks on us.” Reid remembers, “He actually bag-skated himself after a bad loss. He said he couldn’t play for us but he could skate for us. That was pretty powerful.” Lovell came in during the Royals last season in town. “Outstanding coach. I learned a great deal about hockey and how to be a good person from him.”

cornwall_royals_1991-92_front Reid remembers the incredible talent the team had. “Being able to watch and play with Owen Nolan was awesome. Score goals, hit and fight at the drop of the hat. He was an all-around hockey player.” Other names coming to mind were the great John Slaney, the late Guy Levesque, one of his roommate’s Ryan Vandenbussche and of course, his linemate Chris Clancy. “He was my big brother out there. He made me be able to play like I was 6’2”.”

The tandem of Reid and Clancy didn’t stop with the Royals. After his junior career, Reid turned professional and played with various minor pro teams across the United States. Teams such as the Las Vegas Thunder, Orlando Solar Bears and Raleigh IceCaps. Upon retiring from playing, an opportunity arose to headman the men’s hockey team at the University of Guelph. His assistants? Two aforementioned Royals alumni, Chris Clancy and John Lovell. “I was a young head coach and stayed with Guelph for nine years.” Reid says, “It took me a few years to figure out that hockey was a high priority, but the big picture was getting a degree and possibly having a pro opportunity after school. School was paramount.”

“Major junior isn’t for everyone and lots of players are late bloomers. The main difference between the OHL and collegiate is understanding what the players’ goals are.” Reid offers a bit of advice for future players. “I’m biased but Major Junior is the best of both worlds. Work to get your dream of playing professional hockey and if it doesn’t work out, school is there and paid for.”

As he reminisces about his time in Cornwall, Reid says the fans are the some of the memories that stick out the most. “The fans were very passionate about the Royals. The hockey was incredible.” In the same breath, he remembers the great Orval Tessier giving him his chance to excel. As Reid was a late draft pick, he got his chance after Winnipeg Jets prospect Jason Cirone was away at their camp and blew out his shoulder. “Orval signed me to a roster card. I was very grateful for the opportunity and went on to say I needed a new pair of skates.” Tessier didn’t say much and a couple of weeks later called Reid back into his office. “On his desk were a new pair of skates. He ordered them with two inch steel blades. He told me he was going to get me to 5”10 somehow.”

Reid has just finished up the hockey season as an assistant coach with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. Here’s to seeing him behind the bench for a few more years to come.

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Captain Heart: Steve Simoes

250x250-Steve_SimoesAs another LNAH season wraps up for the Cornwall River Kings, everyone can take a step back from all the dramatics that unfolded this year and take a breath of relaxation. The ups and downs of the craziness took its toll on the mighty Lion King that blazes the crest on the white, red and blue sweaters. From fans, players, and those close to the team itself, the frustration was hard. The hardest hit could have possibly been the captain, Steve Simoes.

For the past three years, Simoes has dedicated everything he’s got to supporting professional hockey in Cornwall. He knows it can strive with the right people. From leading the team onto the ice night in and night out, to becoming a bench boss while nursing an injured shoulder the second year, he lived and breathed the game of hockey.

Standing at a solid 6’2, the leftie started off with a stint of 55 games over two years in Major Junior. Split between the Beauport Harfangs and the Quebec Remparts. Despite the short tenure, valuable lessons were learned in Beaufort under head coach Alain Vingeault and then with Atlanta/Calgary Flames legend Guy Chouinard.

I suppose playing with Simon Gagne didn’t hurt either.

After collecting 193 penalty minutes down in Junior A with the Antigonish Bulldogs, Simoes enrolled at the University of Ottawa and managed to become a point a game player. Now here’s where the fun starts. It’s time to turn professional.

The modern version of the Central Hockey League was founded in 1992 by Ray Miron. If that name sounds familiar to you it’s because he was born and raised in Cornwall. Miron spent some time as an executive for the Toronto Maple Leafs and was General Manager for the Colorado Rockies. Before his foray into professional hockey, Miron managed the Cornwall Community Arena for 10 years while coaching and managing several Cornwall teams.

The CHL started with six teams all located in the southern United States. As other leagues began folding, Miron welcomed them into the mix. Just like any start up league, things could get a little bit feisty. In order to sell the game to southern fans, fighting became an integral part of the play.

Laredo, Texas, a city of close to 240,000 people lies on the on the border of Texas and Mexico. Not exactly what you would call a hockey hot bed but the league had saw success in Southern Texas before. It was no brainer when Laredo was awarded its first professional franchise.

(They really loved him in Laredo.)
(They really loved him in Laredo.)

Simoes picked up his first professional contract during the second season of the Laredo Bucks franchise. What a time to join them too. Simoes played an integral part of that important season having 34 points in 58 games and coming second in terms of penalty minutes with 116. The fans of Laredo loved the gritty style of hockey and would come close to selling out almost every night, especially in the playoffs. The arena held 8,000 and a little more than 6,500 people would show up. Oh, and I forgot. Simoes hoisted the Ray Miron President’s Cup as the Laredo Bucks, in just their second year of existence, won the CHL championship.

After five solid seasons in Laredo, two President’s Cups under his belt and a quick stint with the Nottingham Panthers in England, Simoes brought his play closer to home. With the self-proclaimed “toughest league in the world”, Simoes would leave his mark on an unsuspecting town desperate for hockey.

 

(Photo: Alison Papineau)
(Photo: Alison Papineau)

Simoes captained the Cornwall River Kings since its existence. During his tenure, he’s taken on many roles that most captains or hell, even players wouldn’t do. A shoulder injury didn’t stop him from joining the coaching staff in the River Kings sophomore year and when money went the way of the do-do bird, he rallied the troops and convinced them to play through the second half of the season without a dime to their name. Let’s not forget about that fateful night when Dannick Lessard was shot outside a Quebec nightclub; Simoes went around and collected donations for him.

He always took time out for the fans and was always straight up honest about what was going on behind the scenes during this past rollercoaster of a season. He let us know how both he and the players felt in a long tirade of a blog post. While ownership was up in the air and talk of the team being sold and moved out of town arose Simoes night in and night out gave the fans hope. Hell, have you ever seen a captain take the mic at the beginning of the game and apologize for having a horrible team? Well, that happened.

 

(Photo: Alison Papineau)
(Photo: Alison Papineau)

Out of the few games I went to this year, Simoes was the only guy on the ice that you could tell played with his heart on his sleeve. He wasn’t afraid to get dirty, deliver checks, or get into a fight or two to help out the crest on the front on his jersey. He was never lazy and you could tell he worked hard just by some of the pictures that floated through social media on game night. If we had more players like him on our roster, Cornwall would be unstoppable.

Steve Simoes is just as passionate about hockey as you and I. I could go on to list the things that we have all seen or heard him do. Nothing but a class act in and out, the River Kings are going to miss his presence tremendously; not only on the ice, but in the locker room as well.

Here is to a great career Simmer; thanks for the memories.

Pat Haramis and the 1980 Memorial Cup Champions: The Cornwall Royals

First published in the April 2014 edition of Cornwall, SD&G, Akwesasne’s Sports Energy News

When one takes the time to sit back and think of all the great sports teams to come out of this area, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Cornwall Royals will be one of the first teams mentioned. The early 1980’s saw the team take two Memorial Cup championships with the first one taking the hockey world by surprise. The Royals were not lacking in depth during the 1979-1980 campaign. Four solid lines anchored the ice and cruised Cornwall to a QMJHL President’s Cup championship by unexpectedly defeating the first place ranked Sherbrooke Castors four games to two.

Pat Haramis
For Pat Haramis, a look back during his time with the Royals as they headed out for the Memorial Cup tournament seems to tire him out. “It’s all a blur. There was so much going on that we didn’t have time to think. We didn’t have time to be nervous.” Haramis grew up in nearby Maxville, Ontario before his parents moved to Cornwall in 1973. Playing peewee hockey in the Cornwall system is what bumped him up to the Royals ranks. Always supportive in his children’s endeavors, Nick Haramis Sr. urged Pat to find a way to get to and from games. Being busy working to support his 10 kids, he found that his time was scarce. Luckily Pat found aid in a teammate. “I can’t thank Dan O’Reilly and his father enough. If it wasn’t for them driving me back and forth from practice, I never would’ve had a hockey career.”

The 1980 Memorial Cup was staged out west switching from the Keystone Centre in Brandon, Manitoba and the Regina Agridome in Regina, Saskatchewan. For some of the boys, it was there first time on a plane. “I know it was my first time,” recalls Haramis. “The team bought us all cowboy hats and Dan Daoust even wrote a song about us bringing home the championship. It was a number one hit in Cornwall that spring.” Laughter aside, on the ice is where things got serious. “I don’t know what it was but every single player on that team contributed in one way or another. Yes, we had our all stars like Dale Hawerchuk but guys like Newell Brown and Pat O’Kane really made it a team effort.”

Dale Hawerchuk in model form with his 1980 Cornwall Royals uniforms.
Dale Hawerchuk in model form with his 1980 Cornwall Royals uniforms.

When Robert Savard scored and clinched the victory with his overtime goal over the Peterborough Petes, the fun was just about to begin. “I remember coming back to the Montreal airport and there was about 38 buses waiting for us. We needed a police escort just to come down the 401!” Haramis could not believe the support the fans and community gave the team. “Cornwall really knew how to do it. As we got into Ontario and closer to Cornwall, there were people upon people lined up with signs on the overpass just screaming and waving at us. It was when we rolled into the Water Street Arena that I knew how much this meant to the city.” Waiting for them in the parking lot were thousands upon thousands of screaming fans. So many that it made getting into the arena difficult. “We were hanging out of the windows of the bus trying to high five as many people as we could.”

With a whirlwind trip home, the Royals were treated to a parade around Cornwall complete with sitting in the backseat of brand new Corvettes. “The work that must have went into making this celebration, I just can’t fathom it. I hope that all the volunteers with this and throughout the season know that their work did not go unnoticed. Every one of us noticed and appreciated everything anybody ever did with the team.”

The Royals and their second straight Memorial Cup in 1981.
The Royals and their second straight Memorial Cup in 1981.

After a monumental celebration, Haramis turned his attention down the collegiate road. Getting offers from a few U.S. universities including Yale and Bowling Green, he decided on nearby Clarkson University to start his college career. “Clarkson had the number one ranked hockey program and is still one of the best today. It was a big reason why I choose it. That and it’s close to home.” Juggling schooling with his hockey prowess seemed to bolt Haramis to a higher level. In his four years as a Golden Knight, Haramis notched 140 points in 134 games. He was also a recipient of the Paul J. Pilon Memorial award which is given out to the hockey program’s top scholar-athlete and team MVP. “I loved every minute of my time at Clarkson. We were always ranked first or second in the country,” Haramis recalls fondly. “Funny thing is we lost every game in the Eastern championships but were still awarded home ice in the next tournament because that’s how good of a team we were.”

2013-2014 Clarkson University Hockey Media guide.
2013-2014 Clarkson University Hockey Media guide.

Haramis lives in the Kitchener-Waterloo area now as an engineer with his family. His daughter excels in dance and his son is carving out his own hockey legacy albeit on a much smaller scale. “I’d love to give back. You don’t realize while you’re playing how much people volunteer their time, energy, money to supporting your dreams. I’m going to see if my son will want to turn into coaching with me some day; I feel the need to give back to the game that gave me so much.”

Why the Cornwall Comets will not be forgotten

Cornwall_Comets_(hockey_team)_logoWhen it comes to hockey, the city of Cornwall has been blessed with many competitive and championship winning teams. From the 70s and 80s Memorial Cup wins of the Cornwall Royals, to the Robert W Clarke trophy (Western conference champions) winning squads of the Cornwall Aces in the 90s. Rounding out the decade with a few Bogart Cups and one Fred Page Cup for the Cornwall Colts, the city’s championship swagger was slowly coming to an end.

A few decades of powerful junior and professional hockey seemed like it was closing a chapter on the little border town but a strange new team in a strange new league popped up. Without a senior professional team for over a decade, it seemed that once again the city was now alive with championship dreams.

The Quebec Senior AA Hockey League was filled with legendary tales. Acting as what one would call a “farm league” to the LNAH, the QSAAHL was just as swift with their on ice brutality; if not, worse. Billing enforcers on teams like they would a boxing match, fans came out in droves to be able to witness some of the antics and fisticuffs that would take place. It was never about the skill.

They loved it.

In Ontario the league had a mystique about it. Remember, this was just before YouTube got started so there wasn’t video clip upon video clip being thrown at you on the internet. If you wanted to know exactly what kind of things happened in this league and if the rumors were true, you’d have to see it in person.

1297659949019_ORIGINALIn 2004, the league granted Cornwall a team. Choosing the Comets as their rallying cry, the brass iced a squad that would show no mercy. Patrick Allard had 45 fights that first year and as the team played throughout the season, fans knew they were witnessing something crazy yet something to have hope for. Since the city was dealing with the loss of thousands of jobs due to the closure of Domtar, the Comets, albeit in a brutal league, was a breath of fresh air and something to get the residents mind off of what was happening around them.

The next year saw the Comets really take a chance at winning a championship seriously. At the end of the season, Allard was right back up there again with 58 fights. Following him was Paul Shantz with 44, L.P. Charbonneau with 36, Benoit Deschamps with 30 and Simon Desormeaux with 26.

“Yeah, I knew what this league was about.” remembers Corey Payment. “I played briefly in the old LNAH in Lasalle and Verdun. “ Payment was no stranger to the antics of hockey but more importantly preferred playing at home. Having spent a year in the United Hockey League with the Mohawk Valley Prowlers then two more after that in the Central league, coming home and playing in front of hometown friends and family made it all worthwhile.

“Our team was just so physical. With Desormeaux, Mathieu Raby, Jean-Rene Forget, Ken McCleod. It was incredible.”

However, none of these players or even the winning season would have been possible with the leadership at the top. “I don’t think enough credit went to our owner Dan Larocque. He came in and stabilized ownership. He made sure all the players were happy which in turn made playing for him easy. He was the best owner I ever played for. “

Simon Desormeux
Simon Desormeaux

In the same breath, the passionate fan base the Comets had was what kept the players going week after week. That championship was just as much for them as it was for the players. “In the final there were two games that we played on the road in St. Jean,” recalls Payment. “The fans followed us to both games and filled their own section in the arena. It was amazing.”

That was nothing compared to at home.

“3000 fans watching us win that trophy was amazing. We wanted to win for them.” Being a Cornwall boy, this win holds a special place in Payment’s heart. “It was my first championship win in hockey and to be able to do it in my hometown in front of family and friends was a great experience I won’t forget.”

The Cornwall Comets may just be a blip on the hockey radar of what was already a solid hockey town. However for the brief two seasons they were here, it helped instill the fact that yes, Cornwall can still support professional hockey. Where cities are dying for a team of some kind across the country, we’re lucky that we’ve gotten to call so many great franchises ours. Let’s hope the championship winning ways someday continue.

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The Cornwall River Kings are holding a 10 year anniversary of the Cornwall Comets championship this Saturday when they host Sorel. A pre-game ceremony with some of the Comets players on hand will precede the game. Make sure you get out to this historic night!

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How the OHL can survive in Cornwall. Again.

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Word on the street is the Plymouth Whalers are on the move out of Michigan. First place that ownership would like to re-locate to is Chatham, Ontario. If sold, Cornwall could be the first place on the market. We have to realize that Cornwall is starting to grow and grow rapidly no matter what the nay-sayers say. The OHL would become a major attraction to the city.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Cornwall has housed an OHL team. The second half of the Royals life played out in the OHL from 1983-1992. Poor attendance is what caused its demise and eventual move to Newmarket. Now, the franchise is known as the Sarnia Sting.

First issue you’d have to tackle is an arena housing three teams. Well, Cornwall is not big enough to support two major players in the River Kings and this new OHL franchise so guess what? Bye-bye River Kings for good.  All of the drama it went through would have been done for absolutely nothing.

The CCHL Junior A Colts are a perfect feeder for the new OHL team. Send them over to the Benson Centre and fill that place night in and night out. It’s really a no-brainer that way. Ian McInnis and company know how to develop players to an elite level and they wouldn’t have to go further than down the street to reach that next level.

Next step to tackle? The 1970s barn of the Ed Lumley Arena inside the Cornwall Civic Complex.

org_634958262246787825For nostalgia’s sake, I love the Complex. It’s a great venue for hockey but let’s be honest with ourselves. It would never work for a modern team in this day and age. It needs major upgrades. Brand new score-board, sound system, get rid of the dungeon locker rooms, etc. Best bet might be to tear the damn thing down and start fresh. That turns into a city council issue though.

Kingston did it. They tore down the old police station and built the K-Rock Centre and look at the beauty of the Kingston Frontenacs right now. Just with a new arena, the team was given life again. Either way, we need something done about the Complex.

Going inside the Complex, or new arena, the concessions need a local business handling things. No more trying to save money by outsourcing to other cities. (Can you believe that the concessions right now in that arena is home to a business from Kingston? The arena, the city, nor the teams that play there get any kick back from it.) You need that money for your team to survive.

Alright, so we’ve got a team, got an arena, now what do we need. That’s right.

FAN SUPPORT.

Yeah, that means you.

This is pretty much a no-brainer too. Cornwall would have to, at the very least, have 2500 fans at every home game. That will be done and then some. There are so many people in this city that still cry for the good times that the Royals brought that they would come out in droves to support this new team. Season ticket drives would be off the charts.

Bascially, you would need at least 2,000 season tickets sold and then another 1,500 that would show up to games. Easy peasey if you consider that businesses will buy season tickets too!

It’s a money maker for the city too. How many people would come in from all over to watch major junior hockey? A hell of a lot. A lot of fans do OHL road trips. You could hit Ottawa, Cornwall and Kingston in one shot to the see the future of the NHL.

(Just don't do this. Photo: Rick Bowen)
(Just don’t do this. Photo: Rick Bowen)

Advertising wouldn’t be an issue because we only have one team occupying that arena now. Businesses would flock to have their logos appear on national television. In fact, you’d have big, national, corporate sponsors knocking at your door to throw money your way. That’s something no hockey team is Cornwall has ever had and that’s the beauty of Major Junior hockey.

Like any new hockey franchise starting out, you’re not going to make money off the hop. Hell, you might not break even. However with a little patience and perseverance, it can turn into a goldmine which is what any major hockey playing team will end up in Cornwall in due time. I’m serious. That includes the poor old River Kings.

Major Junior is a whole different breed of monster. The people who buy teams and invest in them know that they will most likely lose some cash at the beginning but that’s hardly the point. The point is the game of hockey.

Finally, I’m going to mention something that I will likely get backlash for.

DO NOT CALL THE TEAM THE ROYALS.

My god, they’ve come, conquered and are now a thing of the past. Let’s leave them that way! What happens if this new team sucks and is a gong show for the next 10 years? The name is now tainted and that’s all anybody will remember.

It’s a new era of hockey in Cornwall.

It’s time to face the future.

————–

For nostalgia’s sake, and because I know how much the people of Cornwall love talking about this team, here is a list of NHLers who played junior for the OHL version of the Cornwall Royals.

·         Scott Arniel·         Bobby Babcock

·         Eric Calder

·         Jason Cirone

·         Larry Courville

·         Craig Duncanson

·         Jeff Eatough

·         Dan Frawley

·         Doug Gilmour·         Jim Kyte

·         Nathan LaFayette

·         Alan Letang

·         Guy Leveque

·         Steve Maltais

·         Owen Nolan

·         Mike Prokopec·         Rob Ray

·         Joe Reekie

·         Ken Sabourin

·         Mathieu Schneider

·         Ray Sheppard

·         John Slaney

·         Mike Stapleton·         Jeremy Stevenson

·         Rick Tabaracci

·         Tom Thornbury

·         Mike Tomlak

·         Ryan Vandenbussche

·         Michael Ware

 

Cornwall_royals_1980_1981

Steve Simoes: The Cornwall River Kings saga in his own words

The following is a complete unedited account from Cornwall River Kings captain, Steve Simoes.

Simoes has been with the team since it’s inception and has been the glue in keeping this team together from the inside. Without him, players would’ve upped and gone a long time ago. It’s a shame that it has come to this. Without further ado, your captain. – March Hockey
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250x250-Steve_SimoesSo where do we go from here?
I have been around the game a few years and in this league since 2008. Never have I seen such drama and attempt for power as I have seen here in Cornwall. The problem with this team has always been people and their attempt of being “the main guy”. There were people who have been involved with this organization that only care about their own personal accolades and personal image of grandeur then the respect for the game.
In my years in this league, I have rarely seen my owner(s) and didn’t really want to see them. The person who usually owns the team is in the background running things and making sure things go well. However, here in Cornwall, we have had a nice exuberant owner who wore an Elvis costume once in a while and  even spotted in as a mascot at times (although paid all his bills – was present, but was led down a few wrong paths by a few wrong people); a group of three owners that had their own interior turmoil because of a power struggle within the group; a new owner this season, who used this platform as a way to bolster publicity and be in the spotlight in order to gain a seat in council and then a more recent owner who would have liked the spotlight but never had the opportunity.
When it was time to be known as the “head honcho”, everyone wanted their name and face in the paper, but when things turned sour, well, “please don’t publish my face and name”. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, maybe it would’ve been better to let it die. But how do you let it die, when a good portion of the population enjoys the hockey and the show?

The issues of this team have always been about power struggles.

 

In the first season we had a few members of the staff that believed he could do everything, from equipment to GM to coaching to office duties and so on. The guy behind the desk didn’t just want that job, he wanted to be the GM; the guy who did the equipment wasn’t happy with just that and thought he could be GM too. Anyone with a JOB or DUTY, wasn’t happy with their situation and always wanted what the other person had.

1297466522158_ORIGINALFor Christs sake, just do your JOB or DUTY. We are a team, from the big guy to the little guy.

There was rumours of potential investors, but all these potential investors came with a twist. They were either connected to one or the other guy who wanted to be GM or the “head honcho”.
SURPRISE…
Does that surprise any of you? Cornwall, please explain to me why people can’t just be proud of what their job is and can’t just do that job to the best of their ability, without always having the spotlight? For a town of hard working farmers, very humble blue collar workers and simple family oriented white collars, how can everything be so darn complicated?
I have unfortunately been privy to many conversations and situations since joining this team. Some conversations baffled me and made me scratch my head, but who am I to judge; it was not my money. A new owner comes in every year, with different ideas but the same issue arises. They’re trying to work IN THE BUSINESS INSTEAD OF ON THE BUSINESS. You should be upstairs and not standing behind the bench (which happened more often than it should have).

Lets be honest.

1297407761910_originalIt takes money to run a team in any league, and you can’t expect to spend like the Buffalo Sabres and have a Pittsburgh Penguins situation.

The intent this year was obvious from the get-go.

This was all to provide a political stepping stone for someone and the rest didn’t matter. I have never seen an owner take the microphone so many times at center ice, before a game, in my whole hockey career. In my 11 years pro and junior hockey, it has maybe happened 3 times (totalling this years total).

Then the polls close and there is a supposed sale. To whom? For how much? I don’t know, and usually wouldn’t care. Until checks start bouncing and money goes missing. Who the hell is telling the truth? How does this even happen? Can’t point fingers yet until the truth comes out. But just another chapter in this ridiculous drama that continues to tar the reputation of the team, the league and the people involved.

Last year was no better.

I know people like to point the finger at one owner in particular, but there were three; and two were more-so present than others. I know that there was a power struggle last season between the owners. One owner wanted more spotlight and attention toward his business and was upset that it was always the other owner who was leading the charge. But when it came time to pay the piper, that owner bowed out and scurried off to another city, leaving the total bill with the other two. The reality is what it is.

In the end, they sold their other business at a lucrative profit and left unpaid players, staff and invoices. But I do recall, in a meeting around this time of the year last season, one owner did say “Money is not a problem, we have the money”. Oh, my friend, your handshake means nothing and you lied again. SURPRISE… And in the end, a person I consider a friend, got had.

1297616301986_ORIGINALBut the fools in all this are the players. Yes the fans as well, but with all do respect, we are the ones out there taking a toll on our bodies and attemtping to provide some entertainment.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Yes we are paid, and yes, some nights we are better than others but we are asked to play and create a form of entertainment, and then get compensated for it. Like trained elephants at a circus, we are there to provide a fun experience for the family and every hockey lover. I love to put on a show and play the sport I love. I am passionate about it and try to play the game I respect in the same fashion. But even the bears and elephants expect a peanut or two, to keep them going and provide an incentive to perform.

When there is such instability, turmoil and power struggles, and the peanut doesn’t get to the elephant, you cant expect the elephant to dance and play and do back flips. I made that mistake last season, in asking the players to continue to play without their full ration of peanuts. They trusted me because I vouched for certain people (including the league – who really does want success here), but in the end, half the peanuts were there and the entertainment value took a hit. So what am I to do this time?

I have always said things the way I see them and sometimes filtered certain things out of respect.
But I will not lie, be a hypocrite, and deceive people.
If I ask my team to go out there and play hard and don’t do it myself, then what kind of person does that make me? I care about winning. I care about my team and what it represents. My role has always been a grinding power forward that just does his JOB and DUTY, and I love that job.
I respect that job.
I embody that job.
No power struggle in my head, or with our team. If we all accept our job and duty, and stop trying to do someone else’s, we may just win and succeed. Until then, the promise of entertainment, without the peanut is tough. And for those that know me well, know that I don’t do this for the money (although it is nice to get compensated for what you do); I do it cause I love the game and this is quite the way to retire – maybe sooner rather than later.
In the end, worthy of a scene in the movie Dumb and Dumber – we may end up being like Lloyd Christmas, with a black Samsonite suitcase, full of I.O.U’s. “That’s as good as money sir, those are IOUs. Go ahead and add it up every cents accounted for.”
Fool me once…
Steve Simoes
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Nicolas Corbeil: His reasoning behind the trade

250x250-17-Nicolas_CorbeilThis afternoon I was delighted to have an hour long phone call with one of the Cornwall River Kings most popular players. Only thing is, he’s not a River King anymore. You see, a couple of weeks ago Nicolas Corbeil demanded to be traded from the team he called home for the past three years.

It wasn’t because of his teammates.

It wasn’t because of the fans or the city of Cornwall.

No, it was because he was sick of the lies. The drama. Never getting a straight answer to his face. He saw the ship sinking and well, bailed himself out before it was too late. “From the beginning it felt like ownership this year never really cared about us.” Corbeil said with an exhausted sigh. “It was always a show. Every move was calculated and wasn’t in the best interest of the team.”

Corbeil was one of the very few players who stuck it out for the past three seasons amidst the troubles with ownership year in and year out. “I really liked it there,” he says with ease. “The fans are some of the best in the league, I love them! Cornwall is a definite hockey town but enough was enough.”

When the team was on the verge of folding last year, Corbeil stuck it out on the words from Rick Lalonde that things were going to turn around. “You know, those guys (ownership), their jobs were tough. How do you tell a guy like Francis Lessard that you’re not going to get paid?” he says with a chuckle. “But they were always honest when it came to the truth.”

(Photo: Jason Setnyk)
(Photo: Jason Setnyk)

“They came and told us straight to our face.”

One person that Corbeil really appreciates is Mitch Gagne. “Mitch is 100% in it for the love of the game.” He says. “He’s not in it for the money or has a hidden agenda. He really did a lot for me and I really thank him.”

Corbeil also holds the upmost respect for Rick Lalonde, Al Wagar, and Olivier Fillion. “Without those three guys, this team wouldn’t have lasted until now. They were the only ones who cared and I want to thank them so much.”

The drama of the team took its toll on Corbeil. He was finding it hard to enjoy coming to the rink and lace them up. It wasn’t because of the guys in the locker room. “I have a bunch of friends on the Kings; I had no problems with the guys.” No, it was sickening feeling of walking into the arena and asking question after question about whether or not he would be paid that night. “I told myself, if either came to the point where I no longer enjoyed coming to the rink, it was time to move on.” He wasn’t ready to pack it up and call it a career just yet. His love for the game still thrived.

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So he got sent to Thetford Mines and the Isothermic.

“I like it here, it’s a great fit for me.” Corbeil says with a smile in his voice. “I found the joy in playing hockey again.”
Nicolas Corbeil might be in a different uniform now. However, what he did on the ice for this city will always be remembered. One of our best Kings that played with his heart night in and night out and hell, sometimes without a pay cheque. Onwards and upwards Corbs; win that championship with Thetford.