1997-2007: A New Dawn
On January 27, the Ottawa 67’s will honour their fourth decade in franchise history as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations. 1997-2007 was an exciting time for Barber Poles fans and here’s why.
The Ottawa 67’s entered their fourth decade coming off of back to back seasons as East Division champions and a hard fought loss in six games of the OHL final. The team embarking on the fourth decade boasted many returning players from the season before, five of which were drafted into the NHL.
The Barber Poles didn’t skip a beat at the beginning of the decade, claiming first in the East Division for the third consecutive year. As a result of finishing atop the division, the 67’s received a first round by. The following two rounds were easy work for the boys, losing only once through the quarter and semi-finals. They entered the OHL Finals with a playoff record of 8-1 and were set to take on Central division champions, the Guelph Storm. By the end of the championship, the Barber Poles playoff record would end up being 9-5, losing the series in five games.
During the offseason, new 67’s owner Jeff Hunt was successful in acquiring the right to host the 1999 Memorial Cup. Hunt was able to accomplish this despite the fact that the Memorial Cup had just been played across the river in Hull in 1997.
The 67’s entered their Memorial Cup season determined. They had made it to the league finals two years in a row and brought back no hardware. The team did have a guaranteed spot in the Memorial Cup, however only once before this year had a host team not won their league and gone on to win the Memorial Cup.
The boys got right back to their winning ways, winning their division for a fourth consecutive year by a whopping 18 points. This season the playoff format had been changed and as a result the 67’s did not receive a bye in the first round. The 67’s made quick work of North Bay sweeping the team in the first round.
In the second round against Belleville, the Barber Poles came out with a win, extending their playoff win streak to five games only to lose the following four and take an early exit in the OHL playoffs. Belleville would go on to win the J. Ross Robertson trophy as league champions and guaranteeing the 67’s a rematch at the Memorial Cup.
Their season was not over though. The Barber Poles did not see game action for over a month when they took to the ice for the first game of the Memorial Cup at the Civic Centre.
The 67’s hosted Acadie-Bathust of the QMJHL in the opening game of the tournament winning the game 5-1. The Barber Poles would play the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL two days later wining a close game 4-3. They would have three days off before finally getting that rematch against the Belleville Bulls.
The two teams played a tremendous game and were deadlocked at four goals apiece at the end of regulation. The first overtime would solve nothing and it wasn’t until the second overtime frame when Belleville would net the game winner, with their fifth consecutive win over the 67’s.
The 67’s, Hitmen and Bulls all finished the round robin with a 2-1 record (Acadie-Bathurst 0-3). Calgary would receive the bye to the finals, and as a result the 67’s were set to face the Belleville Bulls once again. The 67’s would take on the Bulls to a sold out crowd of more than 10,000 people at the Civic Centre. It was a hard fought games and for the first time in six meetings the 67’s found themselves on the winning side, edging the Bulls 4-2.
The following day, the 67’s took to the ice in front over yet another sell out of screaming fans in the Memorial Cup Final against the Calgary Hitmen. The game was an offensive display from both sides with six goals being scored by each team in regulation.
Unlike their previous overtime game which went into double OT, this would end quickly. Not even two minutes into the extra frame, Justin Davis would pick up the puck behind the net, throw it in front to Matt Zultek who would shovel a backhand past the Calgary netminder and into the back of the net. A storybook ending for the Barber Poles on home ice. Six members of that team would be drafted into the NHL that season.
The 67’s followed up their Memorial Cup championship season by winning their division for the fifth year in a row! However, the team would unfortunately lose in the second round once again to none other than those Belleville Bulls.
The 67’s dominance was not over yet. During the 2000-2001 season the Barber Poles for the first time in five seasons would finish the regular season in second place in their division behind Belleville, granted only by two points. The 67’s would cruise through the first three rounds of the playoffs, with a record of 12-2 and entered the OHL finals against the Plymouth Whalers. The 67’s carried a series lead into game six on home ice. The Barber Poles would play a close game with the Whalers coming away with a 2-1 win on home ice and heading back to the Memorial Cup for the second time in three seasons.
This Memorial Cup was not as memorable as the one a few years prior. The 67’s finished the round robin with a 1-2 record, winning their first game against the host Regina Pats and then dropping the next two to Red Deer and Val d’Or. The 67’s would finish in a tie for third place with Regina and had to play a tie breaker game to make the playoff. The 67’s were held off the board and unfortunately eliminated from the tournament.
The following season would be another solid showing for the Barber Poles, the team finished second in the division (with the same amount of points as the leader but less wins) and would make it to the conference semi-finals only to lose a hard fought seven-game series to Toronto. During the following off season the 67’s would draft a big bodied left winger from the Toronto Red Wings, who would go on to be a three time Stanley Cup Champion with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was with their second round pick in the 2002 OHL Priority Selection that the 67’s would select Bryan Bickell.
The following season, the 67’s would have a big year. The Barber Poles would reclaim the top spot in their division with a 20 point gap over the second place team in the division. The team’s playoff series would progressively get longer through the first three rounds, winning in five games, then in six and then finally in a hard fought seven games in the conference finals to secure a spot in the OHL finals. The Barber Poles would lose the series 4-1 to the eventual Memorial Cup Champions the Kitchener Rangers.
The 2003-2004 season would be a down year for the entire East Division. The 67’s would win their division yet again, however they would accomplish that feat with a mere 71 points. To put that into context, that same year the London Knights won their division with 110 points. The Barber Poles would take an uncharacteristic first round exit after losing in seven games. Following the season, the 67’s would select future NHLer Jamie McGinn with their third round pick in the OHL Priority Selection.
The 67’s entered the 2004-2005 season looking to prove themselves. Despite winning their division the year before, the first round exit still loomed over the franchise. The team would slip in the standings and finish second in the East Division behind the Peterborough Petes. Come playoff time, it would be a different story. After winning their first two series in six games each, the Barber Poles were matched up against the Petes in the conference finals.
The boys made quick work of Peterborough, eliminating them in four games and advanced to face the powerhouse London Knights. The Barber Polls dropped that series in five games but they were not done yet. The London Knights were set to host the 2005 Memorial Cup and as hosts they had already secured a spot in the tournament. The OHL still required a representative and as a result of the 67’s being runner up, they received a birth in the tournament.
The 67’s entered their third Memorial Cup tournament with an overtime win over the WHL representative, Kelowna Rockets. The 67’s would drop their next two games of the round robin and finish with a record of 1-2. Fortunately for them, their win over the Rockets was enough as Kelowna finished with a record of 0-3. The boys were set to face the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL who were led by “The Next One” Sidney Crosby. Crosby had earned superstar status as junior player and was touted as the next great hockey player, a generational talent. Crosby and the Océanic proved to be too great a task for the 67’s who lost the game 7-4.
During the offseason, the Barber Poles would make another smart pick in the OHL Priority Selection. The team would use the 12th overall pick to select future NHL All-star Logan Couture. Unfortunately for the 67’s though, such a dominant decade would come to an end. The team would finish second last in its division two consecutive years. The boys would still find themselves in the playoffs, however they would not see past the first round and would end their fourth decade with back to back first round exits.
Despite a disappointing end to their fourth decade, this era saw the 67’s rise to one of the premier junior teams the nation had to offer. Its new owner Jeff Hunt had made the 67’s the talk of the town and filled the stands night in and night out to watch the Barber Poles dominate the OHL.
Saturday, January 27 at 2:00 PM the 67’s will pay tribute to 1997-2007 by welcoming back alumni who wore the Barber Pole sweater during the decade. Don’t miss out on this historic event and get your tickets here.