Anyone living in the Region of Waterloo, when discussing their hometown with other residents across Canada, will soon realize this community is known nationally for BlackBerry, St. Jacobs and Mackenzie King among other institutions, people and attractions.
From my own experience another local organization that generates a high level of recognition among all Canadians, and millions of hockey fans, is the Kitchener Rangers.
Rural and urban communities share a passion for hockey at the professional and amateur levels. In larger communities like Kitchener, London, Kelowna or Brandon the memories of past players, accomplishments and championships spanning multiple decades provide hours of discussion and inevitable comparisons.
Local fans and followers across Canada will remember the 1982 Memorial Cup winning Kitchener Rangers as one of the best Canadian Hockey League (CHL) teams in history, based not only on their record and tournament performance, but the players who advanced to successful careers in the National Hockey League. The second national (or international) championship arrived in 2003 and no one who watched the 1990 final played in Hamilton between the Rangers and the Eric Lindros-led Oshawa Generals could possibly forget the double-overtime contest that many observers regard as the greatest junior hockey game in history.
The Waterloo Siskins, Elmira Sugar Kings and the Listowel Cyclones all won the provincial championship Sutherland Cup in the three years preceding the spring of 2020. The Ayr Centennials have an impressive record in Junior C hockey including two Schmalz Cups.
The unfortunate reality is there will be no Memorial Cup or Sutherland Cup for the second consecutive year. On April 12, 2021, the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League announced that a third provincial stay-at-home order provides no option apart from cancellation of this season and a pending Sutherland Cup playoff schedule.
The following day, the Canadian Hockey League formally ended all prospects for a 2021 Memorial Cup, terminating the dreams of many teenage players and their fan base. The COVID-19 virus leaves a lengthy roster of victims.
In Canada, springtime is synonymous with hockey playoffs in northern, rural and large urban centres. The arenas will unfortunately be very dark through April and May with discussions of Brian Bellows and Eric Lindros left to fill many long and empty nights at home.
Written by Art Sinclair