You’d think after 106 goals, 50 wins and first place overall for the 2018-2019 season that the Ottawa 67’s hunger for restoring their previously lacking reputation would be satisfied — but that’s just not the case.
Since the very first game, the Ottawa 67’s have been a largely terrible team. The last time the franchise had won a Memorial Cup was in 1999 — 20 years ago. The team made brief appearances in the playoffs in both 2001 and 2005, with yet again no success after the first round. They have always been a sort of eyesore for Ottawa’s reputation to bear in the Ontario Hockey League.
Then comes James Boyd and Andre Tourigny, who both joined the coaching staff in June 2017. Twenty-two months in and the 67’s are in the second round of the playoffs with plenty of momentum going forward. The 67’s were undoubtedly the best team in the league this season, with just 12 losses in regulation — a total 180 from last year.
For the first time since 1999, they think they can waltz into the playoffs after no warning and just win the memorial cup, but I don’t think we will see that happen.
The players’ immensely intense training process that outdoes every other team in the league — with stats to prove it — can’t save their practically perfect playoff record. Not allowing the players to use their cell phones and risk distraction while in practice certainly won’t give them the extra edge to knock down the only team statistically above them, the Guelph Storms — who finished eighth in the overall standings.
They may have a coach that ensures every player gets access to a hot meal before school every morning, a fitness trainer and full-time conditioning coach, a skills development program, an education consultant, and monthly leadership workshops — but that definitely can’t secure their win.
Eating healthy when on the road, training every day for three hours (a 90-minute workout followed by a 90-minute practice) may have gotten them to beat out all other teams by at least seven goals or beat their own previous franchise record of 104 goals in a season, but — where was I going with this?
Oh yeah. They may have the best players in the league, and a strong bromance between players that goes beyond the ice… But… They can’t be the best team — right?
Sure, this year the junior hockey team attracted some big prospects, has seemed nearly unstoppable at times on the ice and ramped up their marketing efforts en route to earning the OHL’s best regular season record this season. However, an Ottawa hockey team doing well?
While they have a reason to celebrate so far with four straight wins against the Hamilton Bulldogs (ranked 14 overall), their game on April 5 against the Sudbury Wolves (ranked seventh overall) should out a real challenge in their way, after all, they only have seven wins and 10 goals over the Wolves.
With the Dallas Stars drafted scoring machine and cowboy hat-wearing Tye Felhaber, World Junior goalie and mid-season acquisition Mike DiPietro or dynamic rookie Marco Rossi, the 67’s can’t… Stop… Winning…
That’s it. No more denial, there’s no putting the breaks on the locomotive known as the Ottawa 67’s. This year is just the start of their success, and it gives Ottawa a team to truly be proud to call their own — since the Senators have had a rough connection with their community.
In an interview with CBC, head coach Tourigny described the importance of giving players what they need to succeed.
“The last two years [since I was hired] we worked on the environment and culture and made sure the players had everything they needed to perform,” he said.
“We give them all the tools and then we hold them accountable.”
The strategy on giving the team balanced meals after practices, along with strength and conditioning coach Sean Young’s fiancée picking restaurants with healthy menus while the team is on the road, just shows the extra dedication to the players.
Not only is it healthy, but the food is standardized for every player.
“We want to make stronger athletes, we want to make mobile athletes, and [we want to] keep the weight on them — during the season they can lose quite a bit of weight,” Young said to CBC.
“You have a big guy like Kevin Bahl, he’s 6-6, he might need two or three chicken breasts, he might want more protein versus carbohydrates because he’s trying to cut weight. I might have a kid like [6-0, 175-pound] Mitch Hoelscher eat lots more carbohydrates,” he said. The point is that the players are being well-taken care of by the coaches and are getting immense training and even conditioned-food.
While they continue to be a well respected and authenticly superior team, the Memorial Cup is still a long ways away. With the 67’s ability to instill a better work ethic, work on skill development, accentuate the positive rather than the negative, and make school a priority is what may give them the extra push to reach their goals.