A Soo Greyhound is a player who wants to develop as a person, not just a hockey player; an individual with a dream, who has character and integrity, passion and heart, skill and hockey sense; one who strives to be the best in academics, strength and conditioning training, community involvement, character development, and hockey development; an unselfish person, who understands the concept of ‘team first’, and that you win for each other.
A Soo Greyhound is an owner, director, staff person, whether in hockey or business operations; volunteers, landparents, and sponsors; all of which are passionate and act with character and integrity to ensure the organization operates at optimal levels.
A Soo Greyhound is a fan who bleeds red and white; one who is passionate and follows its hockey team’s games at home and on the road; a dedicated person who supports his hockey team in good times and bad; an individual who continuously encourages the players to excel; an individual that is part of a group whose cheering provides the psychological boost needed to succeed.
A Soo Greyhound is an individual that is passionate about his or her community, speaks positively, and strives to make the city of Sault Ste. Marie the best in the world; a person who respects all people regardless of age, gender, transgender, race, religion, culture, or social status.4
Being a Soo Greyhound is a common bond that ties together Hound Town, and makes Sault Ste. Marie one of the best hockey towns anywhere.
Is Hound Town a good recruiting tool for players interested in advancing the dream of playing in the NHL?
I believe that Hound Town, in fact, is an excellent tool for players interested in advancing the dream of playing in the NHL. Hound Town demystifies the operation of a hockey team in the OHL by providing accurate information to assist players, parents, advisors and fans. It provides readers with a look at the ‘Program’ created by team management for its players.
Hound Town stresses the importance of teaching its players the importance of volunteering to do good work in the community to build the players’ character as a person and encourages them to reflect on the relationship between the Soo Greyhounds and its community demonstrating that the team does not have success on its own. They get to understand that behind the scenes there are amazing people that provide support. In Sault Ste. Marie, as in so many other cities in the OHL, it takes a village to raise a hockey team.
Hound Town provides a brief history of the forty-four seasons since the Soo Greyhounds received a franchise in the Ontario Hockey League (arguably the second best hockey league in North America) and reflects on the overall success of the Soo Greyhounds, which made the Soo Greyhounds one of the most dynamic, successful and exciting teams in North America.
Hound Town also describes the Soo Greyhounds’ ‘Wall of Fame’, which memorializes more than 100 players that have played in the NHL after spending time playing with the Greyhounds. There is a brief background for some of the best hockey players in the world that played for the Soo Greyhounds, such as: Wayne Gretzky, Ron Francis, Joe Thornton, Paul Coffey, Adam Foote, John Vanbiesbrouck and Craig Hartsburg as they pursued their hockey and other dreams.
Next week I will answer the question ‘What is a Soo Greyhound?’
Yes! Whether we are talking Sault Ste. Marie or any other community where an OHL team plays, the community’s involvement is imperative. Hound Town explains the relationship between the community of Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Greyhounds but much of the same will apply to any community in any city in the OHL.
When Oshawa won the Memorial Cup in 2015, immediately following the game, some of the players said that one of the reasons they were happy to win it was for their community, which recently had a thousand workers laid off. They understood the importance of the event in uplifting the spirit in the community. In 2015, Belleville, Ontario, and Plymouth, Michigan, lost their OHL teams after having an OHL franchise in their communities for years. Other cities have lost their teams and it can take years of trying before they are able to attract a new franchise. Our closest example is North Bay, which lost its team for eleven years before the Brampton Battalion agreed to move its franchise there.
There are also significant psychological benefits. Besides the entertainment value during our long winters, as members of the community we have a vested interest in our home team. Because of the hard work of our players and our familiarity with them, we care.
Margaret Carlisle Duncan spoke about the symbolic dimensions of spectator sport. Millions of people commit passionately to their sports as spectators, and we are either thrilled or antagonized, but always deeply involved. Often, we give up time to ensure the best seats possible for a sporting event that is important to us. Personal discomfort is also endured, on occasion, to see our favorite team play. The influence of sport is far-reaching. The appeal of our favorite players transcends the game. They become successful in selling products and in chosen professions when their playing days are over. We have all heard songs, read books, or spread myths generated by spectator sports. These legitimize metaphors and authority figures for many areas of public life. Sport is compelling. How do we explain it? What is the meaning for us that makes it so compelling? (Ducan. Quest, 1983) It is more than entertainment; we have a stake in it.
Next week, I answer the following question: Is Hound Town a good recruiting tool for players interested in advancing the dream of playing in the NHL?
Why did I decide to dedicate two chapters in Hound Town to the organization within the CHL and OHL and the ‘Program’ developed by the Soo Greyhounds?
Over the years, I have witnessed the frustration potential players, parents, advisors, minor hockey officials and fans have in attempting to understand the total picture of what teams in the OHL provide for the benefit of these young men that move away from home and are placed in the hands of total strangers for the most part. I have attempted to demystify the hockey operations of a team in the OHL. It is important for those interested having these young men pursue their dreams, should have factual information available to them in readable form.
To me, it has always been important to remember that the OHL is a development league for not only the players but also for the staff. Development is not only the honing of hockey skills but the development of all of those associated with the team, especially our players. It is up to the league and the team to do the best we can to enhance the opportunities in hockey and in life by protecting them, educating them and teaching them the importance of giving back to the community. This has to be placed in perspective. We are dealing with players who are very young and prepared to sacrifice to follow their dreams. The same goes for staff, who are older but have their dreams as well.
It has always been interesting to me that so many people that I have encountered over the years think that it doesn’t take much to operate an OHL franchise. I have watched at close hand how a number of individuals from both the hockey and business world were overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Like most things in life, you may not realize it until you are in it. That’s why, I believe that it important to outline the many parts to operating a franchise.
Next week, I answer the following question: Is the community as important to other teams in the OHL as it is for the Soo Greyhounds?
Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations? Part Two:
Kyle Dubas surrounded himself with other young people who were intelligent, hardworking, dedicated and believed in him.
Sheldon Keefe, as head coach, was also young, intelligent, hardworking and dedicated. Dubas provided Keefe with excellent assistants. Together, they refined the plan and found success. Dubas was recognized for his abilities and was hired to become a vice-president with the Toronto Maple Leafs and placed in charge of the Toronto Marlies. The following year Sheldon Keefe and a number of others in our organization followed Dubas.
When Dubas was leaving, he assisted us in finding the right fit to replace him. The directors remained with youth in hiring Kyle Raftis at 28 years of age. He complimented Keefe and moved to make trades that provided us with the opportunity to win it all. Although we didn’t go all the way, it was an amazing year in which the Greyhounds ended in first place overall in the CHL and broke the team record for most points with 110.
With Keefe leaving the next year, Raftis decided on a young head coach who played for the Greyhounds during our three consecutive trips to the Memorial Cup tournament. Again, it turned out to be an excellent choice and our Greyhounds continue to be successful.
Our controversial moves produced great results for a development league: between 2011 and 2015, the Soo Greyhounds had more players drafted or signed to professional contracts than any other team in the OHL, including the big market teams. Many of our players have succeeded in moving up to professional hockey. We had a general manager, head coach, assistant coach, trainer/physical therapist and equipment manager move up the ranks. With the young, skilled players and staff with exceptional talent, the success should continue.
Next week, the answer to the following question: Why did I decide to dedicate two chapters in Hound Town to the organization within the CHL and OHL and the ‘Program’ developed by the Soo Greyhounds?
Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations?
Posted at www.houndtownhockey.com and shared on Facebook (Frank S. Sarlo) and Twitter
In 2011, the directors of the Soo Greyhounds knew that hockey was entering a new phase of development, especially in the OHL. For the most part, it was the big market teams that were more successful and the challenge for smaller market teams was to compete with these teams. Besides the various changes occurring on the ice, there was the whole new world of communication with our fans and our young players. We needed people who understood the challenge and could succeed communicate in this new world. The change began to occur with controversial moves by the directors: first, in hiring a general manager who was just 25 years of age and no experience in the position; and second a head coach that had to buy a team to prove his ability However, Kyle Dubas, as general manager, was intelligent, hardworking, dedicated, fearless and had a plan.
Shortly after Kyle Dubas became the general manager of the Soo Greyhounds in the spring of 2011, we set out to formalize and highlight the program, which would allow the Greyhounds to become the best major junior hockey organization in the world. We were striving to be much more than a hockey team by putting staff in place with character and integrity who would be empowered to develop people, not just players. We wanted to find players with character and integrity, passion, skill, and hockey sense. Our goal was to be the best in academics, strength and conditioning training, community involvement, character development, and hockey development. Our general manager, Kyle Raftis, has continued to tweak the program for best results. The Greyhounds were always these things, but it was important to formalize and highlight them so that everyone involved would keep these goals front and center in their minds.
Dubas reminded us that rather than taking our core values for granted, it was important to put our mission statement forward for all to see. Therefore, he told anybody that would listen that the Greyhounds’ mission is to maximize the development of each young man who enters the program in four areas:
Next week, part two of the answer to the following question: Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations?
What was it like to make it to the Memorial Cup tournament three years in a row and win it on home ice?
1. Vol. V: February 4, 2017:
Posted at www.houndtownhockey.com and shared on Facebook (Frank S. Sarlo) and Twitter
It was like a long dream that makes you wonder whether all of it really happened. We were in a four-year time frame that seems like a fantasy but it really happened. It started with the Soo Greyhounds drafting Eric Lindros first overall in the 1989 OHL priority draft and his refusal to report. This led to an agreement to sell the Greyhound franchise to Detroit Compuware for one million dollars, almost twice the value of the franchise in Sault Ste. Marie. It was worth the price to a buyer that intended to move the team to the Detroit area with Lindros as a large draw in the bigger market area.
As fate would have it, a new clause was added to the arena lease agreement that the city or any group from the community would have thirty days to match any offer that moved the franchise out of Sault Ste. Marie. It would take a miracle to match the price. ‘Dr. Miracle’, Dr. George Shunock rallied the community and the franchise was saved for Sault Ste. Marie.
Over the next year, an executive committee and others worked tirelessly to build an organization that included Sherry Bassin, with his knowledge of hockey and the League, as General Manager; Ted Nolan, with his motivational skills, as Head Coach; and Danny Flynn, with his technical expertise, as Assistant Coach. All became legendary figures over the following three years. With the brilliant trade for Eric Lindros, other excellent trades, draft choices and important walk-ons, the Soo Greyhounds became a highly skilled team with speed and the will to win. They played with heart and determination to overcome all odds.
To that point, only two other major junior teams had ever made it to three consecutive Memorial Cup tournaments and only one team had won the Memorial Cup on home ice. The Soo Greyhounds made it to the tournament in 1991,1992 and 1993. We won it on home ice in 1993. It was one of the best sport’s dreams ever.
Next week, part one of the answer to the following question: Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations?
Posted at www.houndtownhockey.com and shared on Facebook (Frank S. Sarlo) and Twitter.
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?
Posted at www.houndtownhockey.com and shared on Twitter and Facebook.
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?