Editor’s Note- Dominic Tiano is here with his thoughts on Windsor’s third Memorial Cup (CHL) championship in 9 years, plus an opinion addressing comments about the storied tournament’s format. Based in Stratford, Ontario- there aren’t many out there with a better handle on the OHL than Dom- enjoy. -KL
The Windsor Spitfires have captured 2017 Master Card Memorial Cup with a 4 – 3 victory over their Ontario Hockey League cousins, the Erie Otters. 2017 marked the 99th addition of the Memorial Cup, putting it up there with the Stanley Cup (1892) and the Grey Cup (1909) for longevity in North American team sports trophies.
It is the third consecutive Memorial Cup victory for an Ontario Hockey League franchise, just the third time a league has captured three straight under the current format which began in 1984. The Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League captured the Cup back to back in 1987 and 1988 while the Swift Current Broncos won in 1989. Only three teams participated in 1987 as the OHL decided to send just one entry.
The Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League captured the Cup in 2011 followed by the Shawinigan Cataractes – the last host team to win before the Spitfires – in 2012 and the Halifax Mooseheads in 2013. It’s the Spitfires third championship, trailing only the Oshawa Generals (5) and the Regina Pats (4) for cup victories.
The biggest complaint I receive, and I admit they come mostly from friends south of the border, is that they think the format is ridiculous and there should be no such thing as a host team. The CHL has in the past tried neutral sites, but they, for the most part, were unsuccessful. One must remember the CHL is a business and it requires revenue to be sustainable.
So, fans ask me then “why can’t one of the three championship teams host?” Well, simply put, you can’t organize an event like the Memorial Cup in a matter of days. You can’t organize hundreds of volunteers, you can’t plan the off-ice events, you can’t sell tickets in advance, the list goes on and on. I’m not going to explain what the Memorial Cup stands for, that information is out there, but many Canadians are not ready to exclude the men and women who serve in our armed forces. And before the CHL names a host city, they make sure that the team that hosts is competitive and has a chance to win.
I’m not going to let that take away from the Spitfires accomplishment.
They went a perfect 4-0 in the playoff. They defeated three league champions, including the Otters twice. The Spitfires have won 12 consecutive Memorial Cup games (tying a CHL record) going back to 2009, their first of back to back Cup victories. Heading into the final, they hadn’t trailed at any time until the second period, but those two Erie leads were short lived.
In a season when Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators – 11th overall in 2016) and Logan Stanley (Winnipeg Jets – 18th overall in 2016) missed 33 games apiece, Gabriel Vilardi (top prospect for 2017) missed 19 games, Mikhail Sergachev (Montreal Canadiens – 9th overall in 2016) missed 18 games, they remained competitive in the Western Conference that included the Otters, London Knights, Owen Sound Attack and the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.
With all due respect to Saint John and Seattle, they didn’t have to battle through the competition Erie and Windsor did.
For the first time this season, the Spitfires had a full roster and everyone was healthy. Much was said about their 44-day layoff and how prepared they would be after the longest layoff in Memorial Cup history.
Much credit goes to head coach Rocky Thompson, who came up with a plan, brought people in from outside the organization to help train, and kept his team in top condition. Thompson is an analytical coach, and I’m not talking advanced stats. He analyzes situations and he adapts quickly, but most importantly, his players hear his message and they execute. It was never more evident then it was in the third period versus the Otters once they took the 4-3 lead. Thompson is the first coach to win a Memorial Cup before a league championship.
It all began for the Spitfires on Friday May 19th when they opened against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Champion Saint John Sea Dogs winning 3-2. You can watch highlights here
On Sunday May 21st, they defeated the Western Hockey League champs Seattle Thunderbirds handily 7-1. You can watch those highlights here
On Wednesday May 24th, they completed the trifecta of league champions, defeating the Otters 4-2 and getting a birth in the finals while the Otters and Sea Dogs had to battle for a spot in the final. Highlights of the win over the Otters can be seen here
Master Card Memorial Cup Individual award winners:
Dylan Strome won both the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as Most Valuable Player and Ed Chynoweth Trophy as leading scorer.
Michael DiPietro won the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy as the Most Outstanding Goaltender.
Anthony Cirelli won the George Parsons Trophy as the Most Sportsmanlike Player.
DiPietro was joined by teammates Sergachev and Vilardi on the all-star team. Strome was joined by teammates Taylor and Darren Raddysh.
You can catch highlights of the game here