Hockey season is here again and once more we have another foray into semi-professional/professional hockey by the city of Cornwall. City council came out and said they don’t want to get into the “hockey business” but let’s face it, the name of the city is smack dab on the name of the team. Kind of have to go with the flow now. And they are. Just this week the city of Cornwall bought a rink board inside the Ed Lumley Arena. If that’s not a step in the right direction of a city giving a blessing for the team, then I don’t know what is.
But, why now? Well, for one, the Cornwall Nationals are in a completely different league. A league that has a bit more of a favourable opinion in the hockey world and a league that is trying to actually develop players to the next stage in their career (three FHL players signed with SPHL teams this week, a goaltender attended LA Kings training camp, some are on loan with AHL teams, and some have had ECHL try outs last year). It is not the same FHL that held the Akwesasne Warriors as champions. There’s no staged fighting and you’re not guaranteed a fight every game. I’ll let you decide on the quality of play when you see it.
That’s not to say you’re not going to get entertaining hockey out of this venture. Cornwall fans know how to make any team feel like Stanley Cup Champions no matter their record. You can’t deny the heart they put into saving the LNAH’s Cornwall River Kings and I expect that passion to continue with the Nationals especially since most are familiar with the FHL landscape. And for $13.00 a ticket? That’s cheaper then the Junior A Cornwall Colts for crying out loud.
Another thing worth pointing out with the Nationals is the crazy experience they are going have with their roster. A simple click on Elite Prospects can show you the average age of each team in the league. (excluding Cornwall because they are obviously not at full roster status yet). Luckily for you, I went and did this so you don’t have to: (Brewster either folded or went dormant for this year so I’m not counting them and St. Clair is starting up this year and in the middle of signing guys as well, as far as I recall.)
Average age based on 2015-2016 season
Watertown Wolves:25 years old Berlin River Drivers: 24 years old Danbury Titans:25 years old Danville Dashers:25 years old Port Huron Prowlers:25 years old
Most of the guys Cornwall has already signed are well above 25 years old and are coming off extraordinary pro careers. The majority of this league picks up guys just turning pro from junior or NCAA. Don’t get me wrong, there’s extreme talent happening in those two categories but you absolutely can not push aside the wealth of experience the Nationals already have in signing what, 7 guys already? Insane.
A lot of people brush me off with my opinions of hockey in Cornwall and that’s their right to do so. Just let me say one thing. The way this team is coming together in this league so far, I have my doubts that anyone will be able to stop them.
As long as the team doesn’t fold at Christmas.
Check back once the roster is complete for a complete player profile and run through so you can have an idea of who you’ll be cheering on!
It’s felt like 40 degrees for the past couple weeks and doesn’t seem to stop for the foreseeable future. It’s time to start thinking winter and with winter comes hockey! In my temp neck of the woods of Cornwall, Ontario, that means it’s time the Cornwall River Kings to come gliding out onto the ice of the Ed Lumley Arena.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t written about them lately. I know most of you turned a blind eye to some of my articles when I was elaborating on issues and moves. (Hey, I spoke the truth and I was right.) However, it’s time to speak up once again.
Why haven’t I been writing about them?
Because they’re doing things right.
And it’s now, more then ever, that we need to praise them for it.
Now I can only talk about roster moves because I’ve been blocked from seeing things on facebook but for the first time in several seasons and maybe since the inaugural season, the River Kings are going to ice a competitive team. Overall, they’ve traded better, they’ve acquired better, they’ve drafted better and they’ve signed better. The brass has gone after guys with exceeding reputations. Likely the work of Bob Desjardins that I hope Rick Lalonde is exemplifying his valuable input.
Let’s take a look at some of the newcomers that are going to grace the bench of the very quite possible Big Red Machine of the Cornwall River Kings.
Back in the beginning of June, the River Kings sent Maxime Vachon to the Thetford Assurancia in exchange for tough guy Martin Lariviere. Lariviere has spent his entire hockey career in Quebec having his Jr. A days with the Lachine Maroons and bouncing the around the old crazy Quebec senior league and the LNAH. It will be different to not show up to the arena in Thetford this season as spent the past 8 years with the squad. However, it was here where he fine tuned his reputation as a pest and an agitator. While not a big lad, 5’9 on skates can be just as intimidating as 6’4. After leading the team in PIMs with 210 last season, you can look for the big man from Verdun to put up just as much.
OLIVIER CROTEAU AND JEREMY VIGNEAULT-BELANGER
In the middle of June, the Kings acquired Croteau and Vigneault-Belanger from the Jonquiere Marquis for a draft pick. Heck of a deal I might add.
Croteau has a couple of really decent Jr. A seasons combined with experience from not only teams in the QMJHL (Gatineau Olympiques and PEI Rocket) but with Team Canada U-17 World Championships as well. At 6’2 and boasting a left handed shot that is much needed on the depth chart, Croteau will be a nice welcome to the younger guys on the squad and on the ice.
Another young kid that has QMJHL experience is Vigneault-Belanger. A season with the Quebec Ramparts was enough to cross over into the LNAH territory. Two years ago he put up 58 points in 38 games with St. Georges. Last year while bouncing between St. Georges and Jonquière, Vigeanaut-Belanger was almost a point a game player with 35 in 38 games. Given the right players to play with him, this kid could turn out to be something.
When Dickenson retired from pro hockey earlier this off-season I shook my head when the River Kings drafted him. (I still forget that the LNAH is semi-pro!) I knew how great of a player he is and was equally excited and disappointed at his retirement. After I finally realized my mistake, I jumped for joy and wondered how the hell the Kings pulled this off.
Dickenson, who you may remember from CBC’s Making the Cut back in the early 2000s, has had a huge and lengthy pro career that has taken him almost everywhere. Well, at least all over Europe. He’s a scoring machine which is definitely needed badly for Cornwall. Even if those European clubs are sometimes a lesser calibre it is not a knock on Dickenson’s play. Those pictures out there with him in a gold helmet? That’s to showcase the top scorer on the team. Neat thing to have.
He played 13 games with Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia, crushed out 20 points in 13 games and took home the championship. Last season he spent it with the Dundee Stars of my beloved EIHL and went over a point a game. Another asset is he’s a big guy who can skate and can hold his own. He’s another left handed shot (told you they need them badly) and accustomed to the bigger ice. If Bob Desjardins can put a smart right winger who isn’t flashy and sticks to the little things on his line combined with the smaller ice, Dickenson will be scoring for days in this league.
If you’re a hockey fan that lives in Cornwall and don’t know who the hell Jeff Legue is then I’m sorry, you need to get out to the rink more. Legue, who has reached legendary status in Sheffield, England, had decided to retire from pro hockey and move back home to Cornwall with his family. It was obviously a no brainer that a conversation about playing for the River Kings was going to come up at some point. I’m not going to ramble about how much Legue’s hockey means to the city (and to the country of England) because like I said, if you don’t know then there’s a problem. But if you do want to brush up on his career, have a read at a sort of biography I did with him a couple yeas ago. You can check it out here: Jeff Legue: Two Cities and the Sport of Hockey
I can truly say with all honesty that for the first time in a while it is an exciting time to be a Cornwall River Kings fan. They celebrate a milestone this season in turning 5. I hope we can look forward to different events and celebrations to mark this feat. Maybe there’s a 5th Anniversary patch in the works? Who’d ever thought we’d last this long? Who knows.
What I do know is it’s only 3 more months until you can start chanting “Go Kings Go.”
While millions of viewers had their eyes glued to the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the eventual winners Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, a feeling of fear and sadness was rolling through the city of Cornwall, Ontario.
See, as Sidney Crosby was raising the Prince of Wales trophy as Eastern Conference champion, 90 students/players of the Ontario Hockey Academy saw their on ice dreams suffer a major setback.
OHA was on fire and burning quickly.
Cornwall’s fire Chief, Pierre Voisine, seems to think it had been started in one of the dorm units that houses the students (no official confirmation as of yet). As the flames continued to rage and get worse an evacuation was called. Over 100 people, students and staff alike, spent the night in the Ramada Inn down the street. No one was hurt.
Here’s where things get sad and tricky.
Belongings were lost, hockey equipment has been lost and maybe most importantly, passports have been burned.
Most of the students are European and classes were supposed to finish up today. Flights had been schedule to fly out as early as this Saturday. Of course, I don’t know which players are still here but just taking a gander at the men’s Major Midget AA team roster, it includes students from the UK, Australia, Israel, Belgium, and Germany. That’s just for one team! Luckily for UK students, the British Consulate in Ottawa has already been in contact with OHA to see how they can help in speeding things up. However, it’s not clear just yet about the others. Hopefully as the day goes on today we’ll get some kind of idea of what’s happening on the international front.
For those that don’t know what the Ontario Hockey Academy is, it’s a high performance academic-athletic private school. Basically high school and an awful lot of hockey. They prepare you for the University or College route to the big time. It’s a big thing internationally because students from all over the world can come and learn from hockey’s best: Canadians.
While the fire has been put out and I’m sure an investigation has been put underway, thoughts now turn to what can we do to help. If you’re looking to start fundraising, collecting items for care packages, helping to replace items and what not, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can get the word out. I have a pretty big reach locally and in the UK that I’m sure could be useful to help these kids get their dreams back on track.
Ontario Hockey Academy. What happened has happened and now it’s time for the rest of hockey’s family to step in and have your backs. This won’t keep the Mavericks down.
(Originally posted for the Seaway News on Sept 22nd, 2015. Reprinted with permission. Special thanks to Todd for reaching out.)
By Todd Lihou
CORNWALL, Ontario – Where would the Montreal Canadiens be today without the likes of superstars like Georges Vezina and Cornwall’s own Edouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde?
To put it bluntly – maybe nowhere.
The fabled National Hockey League team that has won more Stanley Cups than any other franchise can, in large measure, thank the exploits of Vezina and Lalonde for helping to solidify a foundation of greatness that later spawned the legends of household names like Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur.
“When he (Lalonde) was signed, all the other players signed with the Canadiens too, because they knew it would be a success,” said Andre Rivest, a sports journalist who specializes in history with La Presse in Montreal.
Ambrose O’Brien, the owner of the team, had hired Jack Laviolette to build the Canadiens and one of the first names on the short list of players was Lalonde.
“The name he really wanted was Newsy Lalonde,” said Rivest. “Without him, there would be no Montreal Canadiens.”
While Vezina has a trophy named after him, which is awarded to the league’s best goaltender every season, there’s relatively little else left for the likes of Lalonde – a man who scored more goals than any other Canadien from 1917 to 1922 when hockey had none of the stability and name-recognition of today.
Perhaps that is why his exploits have been relegated to history.
There’s a small bronze plaque at one of the entrances to the Bell Centre in Montreal, the home of the Canadiens, that bears Lalonde’s name. His visage is also included among a row of others in a banner in the Habs locker room that speaks the immortal words: “To you from failing hands, we throw the torch.” He’s also a member of the ring of honour that circles the Bell Centre – the list of Canadiens players and builders in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
But that’s it. While other superstars have had jerseys retired, statues erected and numbers immortalized, Lalonde appears to some to be an afterthought in a city, and hockey temple, where former glory is discussed on a daily basis.
It was pointed out to Lalonde’s grandson Richard Quintal, who lives in Montreal, that Newsy shares some select company when it comes to the number he wore with the Canadiens, the 4 immortalized by Beliveau.
“Yes, but how many number 1s are up there?” said Quintal. “There are more than one number duplicates hanging from the ceiling. I don’t think it would be a problem.”
Well, kind of…and not really.
There is only a single number 1 retired by the Canadiens – Jacques Plante. The number 4 was thought by some to be “co-retired”…once for the great Beliveau and again for Aurele Joliat. But you won’t find Joliat’s name hanging from the rafters, only that of Le Gros Bill. Joliat attended the retirement ceremony in 1984 for Beliveau and got his own jersey with number 4 and “Joliat” on the back…but the jersey retirement belongs strictly to Beliveau.
In Cornwall the city finally got around to paying some respect to Lalonde, naming the paved entrance to the Cornwall Civic Complex off of Water Street ‘Newsy Lalonde Way’ back in 2010.
The dedication ceremony was attended by throngs of fans and Canadiens greats including Henri Richard and Rejean Houle.
CANADIENS FIRST SUPERSTAR?
Lalonde lived in Cornwall until he was 16, and then rode the boxcars out to Renfrew and Sault Ste. Marie to play hockey….when he wasn’t on the lacrosse field.
Before playing professional ice hockey, he worked in a newspaper plant, where he acquired the “Newsy” moniker and was regarded by many as one of hockey’s and lacrosse’s greatest assets of the first half of the 20th century.
“He used to say that he played hockey in between lacrosse seasons,” laughed Quintal.
Lalonde scored 124 NHL goals for the Canadiens, beginning in the 1917-1918 season, including a remarkable 37 in 1919-1920 in just 23 games.
It is said that he even scored the first goal in Canadiens’ history in 1910. In the 1919 playoffs he scored 17 goals in just 10 games.
“Let’s be honest: he was a puck hog,” said Quintal, chuckling. “His goals versus assists is insane.”
Indeed, Lalonde ‘only’ had 41 assists in his five NHL seasons with the Canadiens. But he was also a champion, winning the Stanley Cup with the Habs (the first in team history) in 1916 as a playing coach. He scored 28 goals that season, in 24 games.
In 1950 he was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Surely all that (and more) has to be worth something more than he’s received thus far by way of tributes?
“When you look at what he accomplished, it’s hard to argue against what he did in those seasons,” said Steve Dryden, senior managing editor of hockey content for TSN in Toronto and a sports journalist who honed his craft at the Standard-Freeholder in Cornwall before ultimately becoming editor-in-chief of The Hockey News.
Dryden suggested other great Canadiens from the era prior to the Second World War have had their numbers retired or been honoured in some way.
“You’ve got Howie Morenz – he was the Babe Ruth of hockey – Aurele Joliat, why not Newsy Lalonde?”
Quintal is a little blunter in his assessment of the team and the way it has honoured Lalonde.
“The team’s recognition of him is non-existent,” said Quintal. “Jean Beliveau once, many years ago, I was talking with him and he recalled me from Grandpa’s funeral. He said the team should do something for him.”
When Lalonde died in 1970 his Cornwall funeral was attended by most, if not all, of the Canadiens legends to that point.
But it was an event just a few years prior to that that may have set Lalonde and Canadiens just a little bit apart, said Quintal.
The Molson family, owners of the team then (and again today) made the decision in the mid-1960s to discontinue free tickets to former players like Lalonde. A rift, however small, was started.
“His lifetime tickets didn’t last his lifetime,” said Quintal. “He didn’t really forgive them for that.”
But in the same interview Quintal suggests there was still a connection with the team in spite of the perceived snub: “By the time my brother and I were born…he was already 64 or 65. He was always fond of the Canadiens. He loved the game.”
Would the lack of a retired jersey irritate Cornwall’s most famous hockey export?
Not on your life, suggests Quintal.
“Without a doubt, he was one of the most humble men you could meet,” he said. “He’d blush. To him hockey was his job…yes he loved doing it, but he was not self-centred to say he was the first (superstar).
“He’d talk about it because he enjoyed playing.”
To be fair, Lalonde’s is not the only debate the Canadiens have had to deal with when it comes to retiring the numbers of its stars. There’s been a campaign to have Toe Blake’s number 6 raised to the rafters. He enjoyed success and Stanley Cups on the ice with Maurice Richard and later as a coach.
Jacques Lemaire is the only player from the Habs’ dynasty of the 1970s that does not have his number retired. He notched 835 points in 853 games. Bill Durnan’s number one is missing from the Bell Centre rafters…all he did was win six Vezina trophies (there’s that name again) and serve as a first-team all-star six times.
Canadiens archives and team history manager Carl Lavigne said the Habs have done it to themselves in a lot of ways.
“Obviously we’re victims of our own success – there’s no way around it,” he said. “It’s just like the (selections) for the Hockey Hall of Fame. They’re dealing with the same thing.”
Lavigne shied away from addressing a specific question as to why Lalonde’s number has not been retired.
He suggested such a decision is made by a committee of alumnae, journalists and Canadiens owner Geoff Molson. Lavigne added no jersey retirements are planned for this season.
“They decide when to look at it, and when to review it,” said Lavigne.
In the meantime, the debate, not unlike the ups and downs of a hockey season, will continue.
If you would like to add your name to a list of people looking to see Lalonde’s jersey retired, click here to join a social media group with similar thoughts.
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.
The story of the Cornwall River Kings might be coming to an end and it’s not ending with a championship.
No, in fact it’s on the brink of ending with a city full of gullible residents and hockey fans who had dreams of having their pro hockey team compete for another season. I mean, really compete.
This was going to be a brand new start for the team that has been full of dysfunction since the very beginning. That being said, all the original owners up until now had been straight forward with the fans. From Bernie Villeneuve parading outside of city hall demanding a change to the advertising deal that has a strong hold on the team from making any money to David Small always being around to answer a fan’s question with an honest answer.
Funny word that, honesty.
Unfortunately the 2014-2015 chapter of the Cornwall River Kings has been nothing more than a political pawn. Used to sway votes, it worked and allowed owner (or former owner, who the hell knows anymore) Brock Frost to be voted in to city council. When he first became the Kings’ saviour, the team was purchased for very little money. I’ve heard that the price tag is still yet to be paid for.
A hockey team is not like any ordinary business and if you know nothing about the game well, you should probably steer clear. As the summer months progressed with various functions raising money for the team, it started to become clear to me that hey, there is absolutely no money floating around this team. That’s a big mistake.
As the season progressed and the election neared it seemed like things were on an even keel and would be okay. Well the minute the election was over, that notion was long gone.
Frost immediately turned his back on the community even though he was elected to council. He sold the team under the table to the team’s trainer, Darren Madden, without any input or even telling league officials. He went to the newspapers saying that it wasn’t true and was “business as usual”. Perfect politician.
Then people close to the team begin to drop off. Players with bounced cheques began to demand trades. Players who were on the end of the trade to come here refused to play in Cornwall. Players started even refusing to play home games. Facebook pages began being deleted. A silent chorus of what was once loud and boisterous has deafened the hockey fans.
Is the team dead? Yeah, it very well could be. What happens then? Do season ticket holders get refunded? Well, good luck trying to get money of a team that’s pretty much bankrupt aka zero moolah. If you don’t have enough money to ice a starting lineup, that’s not particularly a good thing.
There are people out there though who are waiting for the call to rally around and save the team once again just for the rest of the season. If this team can make to the end, there might be a new lease on life.
The advertising deal that the Cornwall Colts have with the city is up at the end of the season. It’s then up for re-negotiation and then the Kings could easily push for their rights, get them, and that would garner them an unbelievable back bone into next year. If they don’t get them, well pack it up and fold.
There is a lot more specifics that I’m sure will come out in the following days. Will there be games this weekend? Who knows? Hell, as a player, I wouldn’t want to play in this mess.
A few of us saw this coming and tried to warn people. No, we were fallen on deaf ears and hell, I even got Facebook messages riddled with hate streamed at me. All I’m going to say is this.
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.
The majority of you have probably been enjoying the last bits of your summer but hockey is already in full swing over in Europe! The newly minted Champions Hockey League features 44 teams from six different leagues and at least eight different countries all competing for the title of Europe’s best and the pay-day of 1.5 million Euros isn’t bad either.
The 26 founding clubs send off their best every season to compete in the “A” tier. Tier “B” would be two teams from each league who have gained the top regular season title or were the playoff winners who weren’t apart of the founding group of clubs. These leagues include the DEL, Swedish Elite, Finnish Elite, Swiss league, and many others.
The “C” tier would be considered a wild card spot and made up of two to six teams from high European leagues but are not a part of the founding members. This would be your Elite league, and leagues from Denmark, Italy, Norway, France and Slovakia.
I’ve managed to catch a couple of games myself and its great hockey and interesting to see how other countries are building their teams.
For those of us from Cornwall, we do have a connection.
Former Cornwall Colt and President of Cornwall’s Own The Ice Hockey training, Brock McBride is suiting up for Villach SV from Austria. Villach has entered the tournament in Group C alongside Sweden’s Frolunda Gotherburg, Switzerland’s Geneve-Servette, and France’s Briancon Diables Rouges. They are currently tied for second with Frolunda by splitting their first two games.
During the first game against Briancon, McBride sealed the win for Villach when he scored with less then three minutes left to go in the third period. McBride who is an essential part of Villach’s first line brought the same intensity to their matchup against Geneve-Servette the following day. Despite losing 4-2, Villach played a close and rough game to counter the Swiss side.
Villach SV has won six national championships with their last one coming in 2006. This is McBride’s second year suiting up for the Austrian club. His hockey career so far has seen him makes stops with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces, Elmira Jackals, South Carolina Stingrays, the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, Houston Aeros, Milwaukee Admirals and a brief tenure with the EIHL’s Belfast Giants before sitting comfortably in Austria.
Stick around Cornwall for updates on Brock’s impressive ride into the inaugural Champions Hockey League season.
Cornwall fans of the Ottawa Senators will get a chance to mingle with two players tomorrow as the Senators kick off their new “Hometown Tour” promotion.
CTV Ottawa, TSN 1200, RV Canada and the Senators themselves sponsor this interactive event which will see them stop at various Canadian Tire stores in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. Along with the players themselves, the event will have interactive games and chances to win prizes. Chris Phillips and Mark Stone will be in attendance at the 9th Street location in Cornwall from 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Fans will get a chance to get autographs starting at 6:00.
During the 6pm news hour, CTV News will be highlighting fans and locales in the area. Here’s your chance Sens Army to get your 5 minutes to wish your team the best as they head into training camp.
Earlier in the day, the Hometown Tour will make a stop in Brockville. Times are 1:30 to 5:00 with autographs starting at 3:30.
Other cities being featured on this tour is Aylmer QC, Gainteau QC, Arnprior, Barrhaven, Hawkesbury, Kingston, Pembroke, Rockland, and Smith Falls.