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Yes. During the 1984-85 season, led by General Manager, Sam McMaster, and Head Coach, Terry Crisp, with a record of 54-11-1 generating 109 points, an OHL record, the Soo Greyhounds were the clear winner of the league at first overall. They clinched the top spot on February 24. Even more amazing was the perfect home ice record of 33-0, which still stands today. The team’s leading scorers were Wayne Groulx (59-85-144), Graeme Bonar (66-71-137), Chris Felix (29-70-99), Mike Oliverio (38-48-86), Bob Probert (20-54-74), and Derek King (35-38-73).
Right from the start of the season, both McMaster and Crisp announced that this was the year to go for it all. They traded for two goaltenders, Marty Abrams and Scott Mosey, tough winger, Bob Probert, goal scorer, Wayne Presley and strong defenceman Rob Vecchia. There was Hollywood drama as the Greyhounds fought for their perfect home ice record. Anyone, who follows hockey closely, understands that so many things can interfere. An extreme example took place on a road trip scheduled for Thursday night, March 7, in Hamilton, Friday night, March 8, in Kitchener, and back home to play Windsor on Sunday night, March 10. However, the league changed the schedule to accommodate Global TV to televise a Saturday afternoon game in Hamilton instead of the Thursday night game. This meant that we would have to play Friday night and Saturday afternoon on the road and then travel home and play the next night against Windsor. Despite a brawl in Hamilton that created a situation that we would be going into that third game minus our suspended coach and seven players due to injury and suspensions, great teams find a way to win and we did. The last home game of the season was against the talented London Knights. After falling behind 3-1 in the first period, the Hounds came back to win in overtime on a goal by Chris Brant.
We went on to represent the OHL, for the first time, at the Memorial Cup tournament. Although we played hard, winning was not to be. However, it was an amazing year!
Next week, the answer to the following question: What was it like to make it to the Memorial Cup tournament three years in a row and win it on home ice?
Were the Soo Greyhounds really named the Hockey News Magazine’s No. 1 Dream Team of the 108 teams that feed players to the NHL?
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Brian Costello, in the 2015 Collector’s Edition of Hockey News Magazine, examined the two top amateur feeder systems in hockey—the CHL and the NCAA. He wanted to know which amateur teams have produced the best-quality NHL all-stars. He pointed out that 108 major junior and U.S. college-level organizations were trying to build championship teams. These organizations all have players looking for a career in hockey and a dream to play in the NHL. Thirty NHL franchises are continuously looking for talent. Costello wanted to examine each organization’s most successful players to form a dream team and see how such a teams would look when compared to others.
The Hockey News Magazine editorial team went through the all-time rosters of all sixty teams in the CHL and forty-eight active Division 1 teams in the NCAA. They named an all-star team for each organization made up of three forwards, two defencemen, and one goaltender based strictly on what they achieved—or are achieving—at the NHL level. They also gave the nod to some honourable mentions. They ranked the six-player all-star teams. They were to judge which line-up, in its prime, would fair against the other if the two were to play a sixty-minute game and not grow fatigued. Their decision was unanimous.
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds came out on top of the 108 teams. Our all-star line-up had Wayne Gretzky (1977-78), Ron Francis (1980-82), and Joe Thornton (1995-97) at forward, Paul Coffey (1978-80) and Adam Foote (1988-91) on defence, and John Vanbiesbrouck (1980-83) in goal. Craig Hartsburg, Jeff Beukeboom, and Dan Clouthier received honourable mentions. It was close with the Peterborough Petes, who came in second, and the Oshawa Generals at third. Both Peterborough and Oshawa entered the Ontario Hockey League in 1963. The Greyhounds entered the league nine years later in 1972. All have been and remain strong today, winning the most championships in the league.
The Greyhounds had produced some of the top hockey players in hockey history. We were described as “an institution in their town of Sault Ste. Marie.”(Costello, 015. The Hockey News: Collectors Edition, p.6)
Next week, the answer to the following question: Are the Soo Greyhounds the only team in the CHL to have a perfect 33-0 home ice record?
Yes! He played the 1977-78 season with the Greyhounds, came second in scoring to Bobby Smith of the Ottawa 67s, won the league trophies for Rookie of the Year and Most Gentlemanly Player and made the second All-Star Team. He received # 99 on his sweater, his trademark during his hockey career. That year he played for Team Canada and although only 16 years of age, he led them to a gold medal. He led all scorers and was named the best forward in the tournament. That year, Gretzky signed the personal service contract with Nelson Skalbania and played the next season with the Indianapolis Racers in the World Hockey League.
That 1977-78 season was amazing for many reasons. Wayne Gretzky, although already considered a phenomenal player at 16 years of age and considered by most as the hottest budding star since Bobby Orr, was still available when the Greyhounds chose him third overall. Angelo Bumbacco had to convince Walter Gretzky that Wayne would be well taken care of if he let him come to Sault Ste. Marie. As the season progressed, the team attracted growing hordes of reporters from print, radio, and television media, including the New York Times and Sports Illustrated. I was able to purchase on eBay a copy of the Sports Illustrated 1978 edition. It carried an article in which their reporter recounted his experiences, discussions, and observations while following Wayne Gretzky and the Greyhounds for four days.
During the season, despite the excellent talent, the team was under-achieving. Muzz MacPherson was replaced as head coach by Paul Theriault with eleven games left in the regular schedule. Under Theriault, the Greyhounds ended the regular season losing only one game in the last eleven. We had momentum and defeated Kingston in the first round. The players were exhausted from a hard-fought series but played their hearts out against the powerhouse Ottawa 67s. Bobby Smith and Jimmy Fox were the 67s star players. It took Ottawa eight games and a goal in the last minute of play by Jimmy Fox to win the series before a more than sell-out crowd, which had the Memorial Gardens bursting at the seams. It still is one of the most memorable series played by our Soo Greyhounds.
Next week the answer to the following question: Were the Soo Greyhounds really named the Hockey News Magazine’s No. 1 Dream Team of the 108 teams that feed players to the NHL?
I would like to express my appreciation to all those who helped to make the publication of Hound Town so memorable for me. There was so much encouragement from family, friends, businesses, media and Soo Greyhounds’ fans. Since the first copies of Hound Town arrived in November, it has been a whirlwind of activity. All of the hours spent in attempting to create a book of which I would be proud, has been more that worthwhile because of its acceptance and the kind words of so many of you who have read it. Thank You!
Over the next while, I will post a weekly blog at www.houndtownhockey.com attempting to answer questions I receive and those already received from Greyhounds fans. The material from the blogs will also be posted on Twitter and Facebook. It has been fascinating to speak with so many people that have stories with respect to their Greyhounds’ memories. I am not a statistics person. That will be left to tremendous Greyhounds’ fans and historical experts such as Chris Sierzputowski and his cohorts that do a great job in keeping our interest.
That will be left to tremendous Greyhounds’ fans and historical experts such as Chris Sierzputowski and his cohorts that do a great job in keeping our interest.
Partly created by the interest generated during the research for the book, there will be some exciting announcements over the next few months. You will want to stay tuned. If any of you have recent contact information for any Soo Greyhounds’ former players or fans that have Soo Greyhounds’ memorabilia, please send to my email address at email@example.com.
Next week, I will answer the most asked question that I have received over the years - Did Wayne Gretzky really play for the Soo Greyhounds?