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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
For 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.
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.
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.
On the Ontario shores near the central part of the St. Lawrence River lies a city whose habitants ignite a passion for a cold and frosty game. As most Canadian cities do, this one has been breeding hockey players and fans for the better part of 100 years. The history of hockey runs deep in the hard working and blue collar city of Cornwall, Ontario. Many teams have come and gone; championship memories are few and far between but most residents can recall where they were when the Memorial Cup was raised on three separate occasions and which hometown boys have made names for themselves in the game.
After the demise of the major junior powerhouse Cornwall Royals in 1992, fans were left with a gaping hole in their hearts. Junior hockey had just started to become a major attraction across the country. Prayers were answered quickly however when across the river in nearby Massena, New York, the Junior A team of the Americans were sold over the Seaway International Bridge to Cornwall. Renamed the Colts, the new group quickly grew an intensive following even if it was step down in play from the Royals.
Small Canadian cities such as this always come with their own breed of hockey fan. This fan will not only know the life story of every player to ever step onto the hometown rinks, but every stat that comes flowing in. It was no different when hometown boy Jeff Legue laced up his skates night after night and stepped out onto the ice at the Si Miller Arena. He felt like a superstar as fans would stop and ask him for autographs and kids would chant his name as they filled the old barn. “Growing up in a small town that has a successful hockey team is any young players dream,” recalls Legue fondly. “When I got the chance to play in front of a sold out Si Miller Arena, I fulfilled that young hockey players dream.” It wasn’t just his dream. Family, friends and fans alike knew how special it was to have a homegrown superstar stay on the city’s squad. “Both my friends and family got to watch me grow and progress as a player and to this day I believe that’s what helped me the most throughout my junior career.”
In the late 1990’s, the Cornwall Colts were nothing short of a wrecking crew. Finishing a top of the Robinson Division in the Canadian Junior A Hockey League, Legue and the Colts captured two Art Bogart Cups which sent the squad to the Fred Page Cup championships. During his second season with the Colts, the dominance continued as they won the Fred Page tournament and headed off to Nationals in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Even though they went winless, Legue remains proud of the accomplishments. “That year stands out to me the most; we played as a team. We all had our own part in helping our team become successful.”
Successful they were. Legue lists off players who he recognises as the “unsung heroes” on the ice that year. Names like Lindsay Campbell, Ross McCain, Sylvain Moreau, Jarret Robertson and Tim Vokey are thrown about with smiles and fondness. The ultimate compliment however is reserved for someone who doesn’t need any introduction to Cornwall hockey circles, Coach Al Wagar. “Al believed in me,” says Legue with authority. “I was put in all situations at the beginning of my career which gave me lots of experience early.” Wagar coached the Colts for the better part of the decade and along with ownership played a pivotal role in the teams’ success. “He told me my job was to go out and create opportunities. He gave me freedom on the ice. Al Wagar was a great coach for me.”
Legue’s skills both on and off the ice started catching the eyes of NCAA recruiters. After looking over a few offers, the Bulldogs that belonged to Ferris State University became the perfect fit for Jeff to start his successful collegiate career. Located in Big Rapids, Michigan, the Ferris State Bulldogs skate out of the Robert L. Ewigleben Ice Arena; an arena that seats just about 2,500. Along with former Colts teammates Tim Vokey and Matt Verdone, Legue skated alongside current NHLer and Pittsburgh Penguins’ Chris Kunitz; no doubt learning as much as he could from such talented leadership. After contributing a point in each of his 152 collegiate games, it was time to turn professional. After a stint on two different teams in the East Coast Hockey League, Europe came calling. It was time to make some hockey ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’.
In the middle of the United Kingdom lies a city of just over 500,000 people. A hard working and blue collar steel town, the passion for sport runs deep in the city’s inhabitants. Football was a main stay for many in the city of Sheffield and with it came its own special breed of sporting fan. Still reeling from the loss of 96 passionate football fans that were crushed to death in the Hillsborough Stadium disaster two years earlier, a new sport was about to take over in the fall of 1991. Sheffield Arena (now known as Motorpoint Arena) had been built with much precision and its main resident became the Sheffield Steelers Ice Hockey Club. While hockey had been played in the UK for over a hundred years, it just never seemed to catch on. That was about to change.
Arguably the Sheffield Steelers had reached their peak in popularity during the mid-1990s. Partly due to the renaissance that the sport of ice hockey was having and partly due to the squad becoming the first real professional club of its kind in the UK; for all intents and purposes, money talked. You could watch most games from this era and you’d swear it was an NHL game just from the fans that filled the arena. The Steelers were crowned the last champions in 1996 of the Heineken sponsored British Hockey League before the premier of what was the British Ice Hockey Superleague.
By the time the modern day Elite Ice Hockey League came to fruition, the Steelers were one of the most decorated clubs in the United Kingdom; obviously a selling point for anyone willing to hop across the pond. Legue was offered a spot and made the trek to set up shop in Sheffield for the 2007-2008 season. Admittedly he didn’t know what he was getting himself into. “When I came to Sheffield I didn’t know what to expect because to be honest, I didn’t know there was hockey here in the UK.” The naivety was soon lost on Legue as he made his first strides on ice in front of the home crowd at Motorpoint Arena. “I soon realised that they are some of the most passionate fans imaginable.”
Legue spent his entire seven year Elite league career with the Sheffield Steelers; the city and the club made an important impression on him his first season. Half way through the campaign Legue got a phone call that no one wants to take while being the furthest away from his family. His father and ultimately one of his biggest fans had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. The organisation didn’t hesitate to send Legue back to Canada. “Sheffield became a big part of my life during that first year,” recalls Legue. “I will always be thankful for how they treated me at that time.”
“My father told me to go back and finish season.” What a finish they had. The Steelers ended up winning the playoffs that year. “Captain Jonathan Phillips made it a point to hand me the trophy first.” With no doubt his father smiling down at him, Legue knew he made the right decision. “That was my most memorable moment as a Steeler.”
Of course, the people he met throughout the city of Sheffield and the success on the ice made it easy for Legue to come back year after year. Meeting his beautiful wife nearby and having his adorable son to raise made it the perfect ending to an illustrious Elite league career.
The game of hockey and the city of Sheffield just couldn’t get rid of him though.
With the EIHL schedule being so demanding with his new family, Legue dropped down a tier to the English Premier Ice Hockey League and is now suiting up for the Steeldogs. Head manned by another Cornwall, Ontario native Andre Payette, Legue is humbled by the fact that there’s another one with him who knows the trials and tribulations of the city he’s from. “It’s always nice to have someone to back up your stories of the beautiful St. Lawrence River.”
Back on the Canadian side, the hockey doesn’t stop in his family at any point. Legue’s brother in law, Brennan Barker, is suiting up for the Cornwall River Kings of the LNAH. Known for its no holds barred fighting, does Legue have any advice? “Other than keep your head up?” he says with a laugh. “Brennan is a tough cookie and he can take care of himself. I’ve seen his hands. I wish him and his team all the best and good luck for the rest of the season.”
As Jeff Legue suits up for the Steeldogs, we can only speculate what’s in his future. Who knows, maybe we’ll see his son continue the tradition and end up back in Canada. The saga continues. For now, this remains how a tale of two cities, with an ocean that separates them for miles, became closer to each other with the power of sport.
I leave you with a video from the Cornwall River Kings from last year that some of you in the UK made not have seen.
I am delighted to be apart of the Sports Energy News team here in Cornwall, Ontario! Sports Energy is a publication that promotes the best local sports stories throughout Cornwall, SD&G and Akwesasne. My first story assigned to me was a look back at the 1980 Memorial Cup championship with former Cornwall Royal, Pat Haramis.
I had a great half hour conversation with Pat as he told me tons of stories from his time with the Royals and as a Golden Knight at Clarkson University in upstate New York.
If you’re in the Cornwall area, you can pick up Sports Energy News across 250 locations including Food Basics, Tim Horton’s, and the McConnell Medical Centre. This edition also includes a profile on Cornwall Multi-Sport triathlete Dana McLean.