Memorial Cup memories
Brent Roach reflects on his trip to major junior’s big dance
As Canadian major junior hockey teams vie for this spot at the 2016 Memorial Cup, it has one Bay Roberts man reminiscing about his time in the tournament.
Brent Roach, new 32, was only 19 then and donning the colours of the Hull Oylmpique of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the 2002-03 season.
“The event itself is top, top notch,” said Brent. “It’s very well-ran, you’re treated professionally and there’s a lot of media.
“Every game, you’d come in and there’d be eight or 10 reporters in the room.” The Memorial Cup is big business in Canada. It’s the biggest prize in major junior hockey and it features the winners from the three leagues and the host city.
A countless number of National Hockey League players have hoisted the storied trophy since its inception in 1918.
The Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels will host this year’s event May 19-29.
Quebec City hosted the Olympiques in 2003, along with the Ontario league winning Kitchener Rangers and the Kelowna Rockets, the top team in the Western Hockey League for the Memorial Cup.
“I was sat down watching Hockey Night in Canada and they mentioned Shea Weber had been to three Memorial Cups and the first was in 2003,” said Brent.
“I thought about it. I don’t remember Shea Weber being there.”
That’s because Shea Weber then wasn’t what he is now. Then, he was four inches shorter and served behind Josh Gorges and Duncan Keith on the blueline for the Rockets.
Brent and his teammates met the Rockets in their opening game of the tournament. Kelowna came in hot but fell 4-1 to Hull.
“You come in and you hear about this great team from out west,” said Brent. “There is a bit of a chip on your shoulder because everyone wants to prove that they’re the best league.”
From there, it was a 4-1 loss to Kitchener and a 5-3 win over Quebec. That set them up for a semifinals match with the Rockets. A tight 2-1 victory meant a showdown with the Derek Roy lead Rangers.
A Memorial Cup wasn’t in the cards, however, as Kitchener doubled Hull 6-3.
“I was excited to be playing in the Memorial Cup. We had a great bunch of fellas that got along well,” said Brent. “It was just sort of unexpected.”
An unexpected season
The 2002-2003 Hull Olympiques were supposed to be in a rebuilding year. Star forward Ales Hemsky had earned a spot with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers at the start of the season and leading scorer Philippe Lacosse had aged out.
“We knew we were supposed to be re-tooling for the future,” said Brent.
That didn’t stop the players from turning the notion of a rebuilding season on its ear. Future pro Maxime Talbot notched 130 points and Jean-Michel Daoust added another 94 to help lead the team.
For his part, Roach found his name on the scoresheet for 56 games, registering 12 goals and eight assists. He was one of four Newfoundlanders with the Olympiques that season.
The others were Doug O’Brien, Dale Sullivan and Sam Roberts.
New coach Benoit Groulx got his charges going and the team responded with a solid regular season. They finished second in the west division with a record of 39 wins, 27 losses, four ties and two overtime losses.
“We made some moves at the (trade) deadline and that sparked us,” said Brent. “It showed management had faith in us.
“It wasn’t a surprise to us, but we weren’t heavily favoured.”
The Olympiques’ regular season momentum carried over into the post season. The team met the RouynNoranda Huskies in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs.
Hull swept their opponents four games to none. Moving to the second round, they were paired with the Sherbrooke Castors.
The matchup held a different twist for Roach. His younger brother Brandon was a first-year defenceman with the Castors.
“That added something extra to it,” said Brent. “Our parents went up and were at the game. Mom wanted us to score, just not when the other one was on the ice.”
That series ended four games to one in favour of the Olympiques. In the league semifinals, Hull produced another four game sweep. This time they got the better of the Val-d’Or Foreurs.
In the finals, the Olympiques outlasted the Halifax Mooseheads 4-3 in seven games. Brent appeared in 17 of his team’s 20 playoff games and notched two goals and seven assists.
Brent knew he wasn’t returning for his 20-year-old season. Concussion issues led him to that decision.
“It was nice to end it off like that with a Memorial Cup run,” said Brent.
Brent Roach (centre) is shown here during over-19 hockey league play in this Compass file photo.