Cornwall - November 30, 2011 - Hockey fans in Winnipeg got the Jets back this season. Could hockey fans in Cornwall see a return of our beloved Cornwall Royals?
Claude McIntosh of the Standard Freeholder recently reported about rumours swirling in OHL circles about the possibility of a team returning to the Seaway City. As he correctly pointed out, these rumours are not new – in fact it seems like every hockey season there is a suggestion that some team is possibly coming to Cornwall. This time it is the Brampton Battalion.
Personally, I would love to see the Royals return and if we did get a team again I hope that they are called the Royals. I am a traditionalist and it wouldn’t have been right to have a team in Winnipeg called anything other than the Jets and the same is true for our junior team. They need to be called the Royals!
As a kid, I grew up loving going to the Royals games. Thursday and Sunday treks to the Ed Lumley arena were regular occurrences for my family and I. We saw a lot of great hockey players wear the familiar red, white and blue starred jerseys.
I fondly remember watching Dan Geoffrion, Rick Patterson, Dave Ezard, Dan Daoust, Doug Gilmour, Dale Hawerchuk, Scott Arniel, Marc Crawford, Jim Kyte, Rick Tabaracci, Darren Colbourne, Steve Maltais, Owen Nolan, John Slaney and many more.
The other great thing about major junior hockey is you got to see some wonderfully talented players on the other teams as well. Mike Bossy, Michel Goulet, Kevin Lowe, Denis Savard, Alain Vigneault, Steve Yzerman, Kirk Muller, Gary Roberts, Brendan Shanahan, Mike Ricci, and Eric Lindros all played here.
Neither the Cornwall or the visiting team list is meant to be a complete list. These are simply the names that quickly come to mind. For sure, there are other players that we remember for different reasons – names like Dan Brown, Tyler Sunday, Tie Domi, Bryan Marchment or Bobby Babcock. Coaches like Orval Tessier, Doug Carpenter and Bob Kilger all have their name on the Memorial Cup.
I have always felt that the right fit for this city was major junior hockey, even though I have also been a season ticket holder for the Aces, Colts and Comets.
As an adult and a member of Cornwall City Council, I was part of a city delegation that travelled to Kitchener on a cold day in the late 1990’s. We met with Bob Fewster and Ken Cook who were part of a group who were motivated to move the Owen Sound franchise to Cornwall.
Hockey fans will remember that a last minute effort by the Owen Sound City Council saved their team and foiled Fewster’s attempt to bring back the Royals. Shortly thereafter, I remember being in the Mayor’s office late one Monday night and our delegation was on a conference call with Mr. Fewster. The discussion revolved around the legality of how the team was to remain in Owen Sound and whether or not he should pursue a legal battle to stop this process.
Bob Fewster decided to do what he called the “right thing” and not cause a stir, as he intended to be a long-term owner in the OHL. He didn’t want to rock the boat. As he said, surely Dave Branch and the league would remember how honourably he handled this situation and he would get his team the following year. We all know how the rest of this story played out.
The City has come close to landing a team on a few other occasions including the Quebec League’s Montreal Rocket. It is unclear how advanced or founded these latest OHL rumours are, but we can only hope. One hurdle that we dealt with in the 90’s was the lack of seats in the lower bowl of the Complex. Their recent addition can’t hurt the chances for a new team.
Two other key pieces of the puzzle are ownership and local support. Is there another Bob Fewster out there? Can there be a group of business leaders or former players assembled to bring a team here? The OHL is big business now and franchises are not cheap.
Lastly, there is the age old debate about whether or not Cornwall really is a hockey town? Is there enough corporate and fan support here to make the team financially viable? Sometimes, you don’t realize what you have until you lose it and I am confident that given a second chance - the required amount of community support will be there.
It would be nice to see Hawerchuk return to Cornwall behind the bench of the Barrie Colts. It would be great to see Gimour’s Kingston Frontenacs take on the Royals once again. How about some more great games between the Royals and the Ottawa 67’s?
I know I miss the Royals and would love to see them return.