An Allan Cup in Fort St. John, the home team beats its old rival in the championship final … and not a single blog post from yours truly.
Well, to be fair, Mike and I were a little busy last week, what with broadcasting all 11 games. And to be honest, it was just awesome.
I certainly count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to call a big event like that, let alone broadcast the Flyers winning the national championship on home ice. You just can’t buy an experience like that.
And while the blog has been relegated to the bottom of the to-do pile, I felt at least one more post was needed, to pay tribute to what made this a championship team, at a championship event.
We’ll start with just what a well-organized and well-run event it was. We spoke to plenty of players, coaches, officials, and fans, who have been to various Allan Cups all over the country – and without fail, they said the FSJ event was one of the best ever. From top to bottom, the organizers had not only seemingly thought of everything, but gone above and beyond to put on one heck of a show for this community. Those of you who stayed at home missed not only great hockey, but a chance meet Denny Morrison, see a cool hockey-hall-of-fame exhibit (games included), and even see the Stanley cup. So hats off to Paul Van Nostrand and everyone involved for putting on a terrific event.
As for the Flyers, they won every game they played, outscored their opponents 24-8, and beat Bentley not once, but twice.
Hats off to the coaching staff for a job well done, which included making a lot of tough decisions on the lineup. I know those guys would have loved to have dressed everyone on the roster, and the Flyers were so deep this year, they could have probably iced two teams. But, having come up short in the past, the Flyers knew that it was important to have reinforcements, to have an epic lineup, which they certainly did.
At times over the past year or so, I have felt sorry for Rob Larson, and the job he had. On the one hand, he had to try to put together a team that could compete, and fill the glaring holes (like on the PP) that had been exposed against Bentley in ‘07, ‘08, and ‘09. On the other hand, he had to please all of the FSJ supporters who wanted this to be a team full of locals. Not that there isn’t plenty of local talent around – but it didn’t look like Mark Hartigan, Brad Fast, and Scott Ford were going to quit their gigs to come back here, and this team, and this town, wanted to WIN. That said, I think the results show that RL satisfied both sides, and put together a team the community could really be proud of. Take a look at the last few AC winners, and you’ll see imports. In fact, when you look at the roster FSJ had for the final game, you’ll see only three names that either aren’t from the Peace, or weren’t already Flyers – C Pool, R Manitowich, and K Daniels. Hell, even B Bablitz is from Valleyview. I think we can agree that that’s a pretty low number, and that those additions were well worthwhile.
The Flyers are the best amateur team in the country, and it was Fort St. John’s team, for sure.
A few of my personal highlights from the week that was:
Watching Clayton Pool get pulled in the dying seconds of the final, to allow T Hunt to finish the game in net. Then discovering afterwards, that CP had pulled himself, and had ordered Huntsy to get in there. Scratch him off your list of imports – Clayton Pool now has honourary FSJ citizenship.
Rod Stevens (carefully) sliding the puck into the empty net to seal the deal. Not just because it clinched the win, but also because it was Rod’s last game. I know he was a little wary of coming out of retirement for this, and you knew he had to be feeling the pressure, but MAN, was that line (Stevens, Stevens, Daniels) ever good.
Discovering the hospitality room, and Carolyn’s carafes of tea.
Getting my picture taken with the Stanley Cup, much as I hate getting my picture taken.
Trying to get Denny to forget his gold medal when he left the booth after an interview.
Seeing the emotions from the boys after each and every win – particularly the last one. Waiting and waiting and waiting for your big chance is tough. There are many who don’t get paid off (ask Dundas), even when they get oh so close. These guys were hungry, but stuck to the plan until the final buzzer.
Getting emails from people listening in England, Australia, and all over the country.
Wondering what D Alexander would do with the Cup, and then seeing him go straight to T Loney. Dave said it was an “honour” just to be a part of it all. Shove it Dave. You’re leading the way when it comes to honour.
The smiles, the hugs, the tears, the absolute jubilation. The Flyers have always had a family atmosphere, and it was heartwarming how everyone was involved in the celebration – players, kids, parents, friends, former flyers, etc. The party is still going on, and it won’t be forgotten for a long, long time.
So congratulations to the Flyers. They overcame slumps, adversity, and defeats to stick with it, and eventually get paid off. They kept their heads despite the excitement and the drama. They brought an entire city to its feet.
They are champions of Canada.
Soak it in.