By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It may already be two years in the history books, but for many fans of the Oshawa Generals, the OHL club’s latest Memorial Cup victory could have happened yesterday.
May 31 marked the two-year anniversary of the Gens record-setting fifth Memorial Cup victory after Anthony Cirelli scored in overtime against the Kelowna Rockets in Quebec City.
Hundreds of Oshawa fans made the trip to witness the event for themselves, and recently took to Twitter to remember the big win.
“Can remember waving the flag and losing my voice like it was yesterday,” tweeted Mike Stauffer
“I was there. 2nd row behind the net where winning goal was scored! Incredible experience seeing your hometown win a national championship,” tweeted Daryl Macklem.
For Roger Hunt, the club’s vice president and general manager, it’s something that he’ll never forget.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that team, that win and those players and the staff,” he says. “It sounds corny, but it’s true.
That season was a historical one for the Gens for many reasons. Along with earning the most Memorial Cup titles of any active Canadian Hockey League team, the Gens also broke the franchise records for most points in a season with 108, beating the previous record of 101 set back during the 1986-1987 season.
Looking back on that group of kids, Hunt says the main reason for their success was in the timing as many of the key contributors spent the majority of their junior careers playing for the Generals.
“That team grew up together,” he says. “I don’t think we had the best players…I think we had the best team.”
And while the team made large moves around the trade deadline that year to acquire the likes of Michael McCarron, now playing with the Montreal Canadians, and Whitby-native Matt Mistele, Hunt still points to the core group and captain Josh Brown as the key factors.
“I don’t think you can jet in star players, I think we had our guys and DJ Smith did an incredible job with getting the most out of our guys,” he says.
And many of those guys are still well on their way to successful careers in the NHL. Cole Cassels is currently playing with in the Vancouver Canucks organization for the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League, Hunter Smith, drafted by the Calgary Flames, is also in the AHL with the Stockton Heat, while Josh Brown continues to work his way through the Florida Panthers organization.
And while those players may have left the organization, several are still familiar faces, visiting the club during the latest run through the OHL playoffs.
“It’s fantastic to be able to keep in touch with them,” Hunt says. “Those memories flood back again seeing those guys.”
More recently, the Windsor Spitfires captured the Memorial Cup in front of a hometown crowd, defeating the Erie Otters 4-3.
Hunt says the work going on inside the Generals organization could put them back in contention in the near future, as the club begins to resemble the core group established ahead of the successful 2014-2015 season.
“I really believe that the work of the coaching staff that we’ve done behind the scenes to try and put a team together that will have its own identity,” Hunt says. “We’re going to do everything in our power to ensure it’s sooner rather than later.”