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Hope those of you who celebrate had a nice and festive Christmas. I had to work, but still got some pretty sweet gifts. Anyway, Since Terry decided to pose the question about the most memorable OHL moments from the last decade, I thought I'd throw out my own list....
Just thinking about it though, most of my OHL memories over the last 10 years are bad: The Don Cherry-era Mississauga IceDogs, the Windsor Spitfires circa Steve Riolo, John Vanbiesbrouck's Sault Ste. Marie saga, the Fan in the Stands segment on Rogers, Dan Carcillo's attacks/meltdown, the Ben Fanelli incident and Windsor trolling for Ice Girls -- just to name a few.
Off the ice we also mourned the tragic losses of Dan Snyder and Mickey Renaud, without question the two most traumatic OHL events this decade.
From purely a work standpoint, bringing in the new millennium with the 1999-2000 Barrie Colts and covering their eventual Memorial Cup run -- was by far my single-most hellish experience as a lowly OHL reporter.
I can't imagine how bad covering that team was for the guys on the beat for the Barrie Examiner -- Gene Pereira and Peter Robinson.
Just to recap for those of you, like me, have tried to block out that season:
* Oshawa Generals home opener, bad blood boils over between the two teams, and a fight starts between the benches. Defenceman Shawn Cation gets a 15-game suspension.
Colts forward Ryan Barnes is suspended for 25 games for stick swinging incident. Gens asst. coach Curtis Hodgins breaks hand as a result and the old Civic Aud goes mental.
Then-Colts goaltender, Dana Bannerman started to incite the crowd by skating around holding up his hands like he’d won the Stanley Cup, pointing to the scoreboard (the Colts were up 3-0) and provoking the Gens bench. It gets really nasty.
For the first time ever, Sunaya actually fears for safety at hockey game.
* Dave Frost plagues OHL arenas with presence while watching Sheldon Keefe, Shawn Cation and Mike Jefferson-Danton. Talk of cults, hand-signals from the stands and general anti-social behaviour become general distraction.
* Keefe, Jefferson and Cation stop talking to then-Examiner sports editor Gene Pereira.
* Head coach Bill Stewart is stripped of his general manager's duties by OHL after twice smuggling Ukrainian-born forward Vladimir Chernenko across the U.S. border in the baggage compartment of the team bus.
Stewart is later denied entry to the U.S. for the OHL final against Plymouth. Chernenko is traded to Owen Sound.
* Sunaya learns to type Matt Dzieduszycki's name without even glancing at a roster.
* Three Colts players are charged with sexual assault after 16-year-old girl files complaint. Charges are eventually dropped.
* Defenceman Ryan O'Keefe is suspended for 24-games -- most of the OHL playoffs-- for slew-footing North Bay Centennials forward Derrell Upton in Game 1 of their opening round series. Upton fractures his ankle. O'Keefe returns for the Memorial Cup.
But wait... there's more!
* After Game 3 of the OHL final in Plymouth, Barrie Colts assistant coach Paul Crowley is assaulted in the hallway outside the Whalers dressing room allegedly** by members of the Plymouth Whalers coaching staff. Reports have Crowley suffering a concussion, a broken nose, chipped teeth and other facial injuries as a result of the fight.
**Allegedly because the OHL's investigation was inconclusive. Seriously.
OHL coach gets smacked down in OHL arena by (allegedly) other OHL coaches = Inconclusive.
Despite their inconclusive findings, there was still enough evidence for OHL to fine both teams $5,000.
* Fight in Plymouth leads to the greatest post-game press conference in the history of the OHL back in Barrie. Which included this gem between Gene Pereira and Whalers head coach Peter DeBoer:
Pereira: Pete about the 3-on-1....
DeBoer: Gene, we're only here to talk about the game.
* Ex-NHLer turned TV presenter Chris Kontos is allowed to ask questions at press conferences.
* Colts win Game 7 of OHL final in Plymouth sending them to Memorial Cup in Halifax, N.S.
* Sunaya, who is fearful of flying, has to get on plane to Halifax.
If you're new to any or most of this, you're probably thinking... Wow, all that crazy in one season? And you'd be wrong because that's not even the half of it.
* Rookies Matt Passfield and Jordan Brenner busted for scalping their own Memorial Cup tickets.
* Colts walk out in the middle of the Memorial Cup banquet just as OHL commissioner/CHL president Dave Branch is giving his introductory speech.
* Colts captain Sheldon Keefe declines to shake the hand of Dave Branch after the ceremonial faceoff before opening game of tournament. Team also fails to stand at the blue line during introductions, choosing instead to skate around their own zone.
Team is fined $5,000 for rude behaviour. Captain Keefe is not so sorry:
"If I thought it was a mistake I wouldn't have done it," Keefe told reporters of the handshake incident. "It was something I felt had to be done. I don't like the way our team has been treated this year. I don't respect the way our team has been handled this year by (Branch) so I acted accordingly. We got a lot of suspensions I don't think were warranted."
* At the opening game of the Memorial Cup, with the Colts down 3-0 to the host Halifax Mooseheads, Barrie coach Bill Stewart pushes the team bench back against the glass so that he can walk in front of his players -- a la Russian coaching legend Viktor Tikhonov.
"I think if you're predictable, you're not going to win anything," Stewart told the Star after that 5-2 loss to Halifax. "The Russians are pretty successful at things. It's a world game."
NOTE: And that, my friends, is the exact moment you realize that you've been a passenger on Ozzy Osborne's Crazy Train for the last nine months.
* During that same opening game, Mooseheads forward Ramzi Abid's third goal of the night would send hats raining down from the stands.
One of Halifax's mascots "Fanatical Phil" went onto the ice as part of the clean up crew and started sliding on the ice in front the Colts and making gestures towards the bench.
This caused Stewart to come off the bench and onto the ice screaming at referee Eric Charron... who then gave Stewart a bench minor.
* "Joe Canadian" actor does his "I am Canadian" skit on ice during a TV time out in Colts game against Halifax. Bill Stewart sends team onto ice to skate around while this is going on. Colts get bench minor and are later fined another $5,000.
"We weren't going to sit there and watch him," Stewart told reporters. "It was a distraction to our team and sometimes you want to do things to nullify them."
* Colts complain about QMJHL officiating constantly at tournament, to which Rimouski captain Brad Richards says:
"(Mike) Jefferson punched me in the face and off the faceoff cross-checked me in the neck," Richards told reporters. "I don't know what league he plays in, but I'm sure every ref is going to call that. It's not part of the game.
"If they're complaining about that, I'm glad I'm not playing in their league because my head would be off probably."
* Mike Jefferson makes disparaging remarks about Ramzi Abid, telling reporters he wants to high-stick the forward in the face.
Barrie beats Halifax in the semifinal 6-3, Jefferson is named the third star and is met by a chorus of boos as he collected his gift watch.
He then proceeds to hold the watch box up like a trophy in front of the fans -- at which point they start pelting him with empty cups and plastic pop bottles.
Not that it bothered Jefferson, who told the Star after the game: "I liked it, I thought it was great."
NOTE: Attention passengers... next stop, Crazy Town.
* Jefferson then turns his mouth on Brad Richards, saying that the Rimouski captain wouldn't "last five games in the OHL."
Yes, that Brad Richards.
* Richards helps Oceanic defeat Colts to capture the Memorial Cup and after the game Jefferson shakes the hand of every Rimouski player, except that of Brad Richards.
"When a guy like that says something like that, you have to wonder what he's talking about," said Richards of Jefferson's comments. "Hopefully he'll shut up and realize who I am."
"It's his choice and it shows his class," added Richards of the snub.
NOTE: And just think, 10 years later -- Mike Danton (nee Jefferson) is a convicted felon recently released from prison and Brad Richards is successful full-time NHLer.
* After the final game, Jefferson, Keefe and Bill Stewart run (no joke) out of the building refusing to take questions from reporters.
Players like Ryans O'Keefe and Barnes, Ed Hill, Mike Christian, Brian Findlay and Tim Verbeek are left to answer for their missing coach/teammates.
"Brad Richards is a great player and it was just stuff to get him off his game," said O'Keefe, who graciously fielded questions about Jefferson's comments.
Said Hill after the game: "I don't know if I will be inviting some of the guys over to my house during the summer, but I'm definitely proud of everyone in that dressing room."
* Chris Reich the Colts media relations director -- who was awesome despite all the team's shenanigans -- leaves team to become a teacher.
And that's just all the things I remember from what was, for me, by far the most insane single-season of covering the OHL. There were probably other things that happened behind the scene that many of us have no clue about; I've heard rumours and -- if true -- they're even crazier than some of the stuff listed above.
As always - questions, comments, compliments, complaints, threats etc: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @loosepucks
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