It just plain sucks.
It’s also the right decision – the only decision – that could be made in the face of an obstacle bigger than hockey, bigger than anything we do on a daily basis. But that the Ottawa 67’s, in the midst of an inspiring season that rivalled the incredible success of last year, will not get to play another game this year…well, it just plain sucks.
The Barber Poles aren’t alone in their disappointment, to be sure. The OHL, the CHL, pretty much every spectator sport, is on hold right now. And sports, of course, is way down the list of priorities right now. But having been fortunate enough to spend some time with the 2019-2020 Ottawa 67’s, we’re going to take a moment to talk about them.
62 games. 50 wins. 101 points. 23 points ahead of the next-closest team in the Eastern Conference and a nine-point lead league-wide. Two potential first-round picks in this year’s NHL draft. And yet, what stands out the most with this group are the people. The coaches, management, support staff and players.
Cedrick Andree, 32 wins in 43 games, still hasn’t met a fan he won’t stop and chat with, even during warmups before a game he’s starting. Between frustrating opponents on a regular basis, Ceddy became a spokesperson for blood (organ?) donation and continues to be a media darling.
Austen Keating, who practically whispered during interviews early in his rooking season five years ago, now sports an NHL-calibre beard and has become the leader, on and off the ice, that every team needs.
Noel Hoefenmayer, who like Keats is graduating out of the OHL, is always the first to volunteer for community appearances, constantly underscoring the importance of leading by example. He filled in at events at the last-minute when called upon, all while racking up 26 goals and 82 points in 58 games, finishing the campaign with a plus-52 rating.
Rounding out the trio of impressive overagers was Joey Garreffa, who, in his lone season with Ottawa, put together a tidy season of 36 goals and 90 points in 52 games.
Marco Rossi is as good as you think he is, likely better. He’s going to be a humble superstar who understands what’s needed to be a top-tier player. Head Coach Andre “Bear” Tourigny said recently Rossi’s 2019-2020 campaign was the best season he’d seen in a NHL draft-eligible player. And Bear knows a thing or two about hockey talent.
Jack Quinn, who was “just happy to be here” in 2017 when TD Place hosted the outdoor game between Ottawa and Gatineau, went from 12 goals in 2018-2019 to 52 goals this year. In the 67’s final home game this season, he lost a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to a young fan, only to return moments later with a signed stick.
Kevin Bahl managed to squeeze in a gold medal-winning run with Team Canada at this year’s World Juniors while policing the 67’s blue line with every inch of his 6-foot-7, 240-pound frame.
Mitch Hoelscher is literally always game for anything. From marketing videos to becoming a role model for visually impaired kids through Canada Blind Hockey programs, he remains a fan favourite.
Alec Belanger really wanted to go viral on TikTok. We’ll make it happen next year.
And the guys that make it possible…General Manager James Boyd, his right-hand man and Director of Scouting Jan Egert, Bear and his crew of top-tier assistants, longtime Equipment Manager and jack of all trades Chris “Hammy” Hamilton, Athletic Therapist Dan Marynowski, Strength and Conditioning guru Sean Young and his team, the doctors, legendary Academic Coordinator Eileen Duffin. These people put everything into their jobs to help the players through the journey of hockey and life.
Can’t mention everyone, there are simply too many people involved in making this team what is has become and what it continues to be. We can be disappointed for now, but that will soon shift to excitement as we move towards another big year for Ottawa 67’s hockey at Lansdowne.