Our Cup runneth … away
A way back in the late 1950s when the Hamilton Tiger Cubs were the local hockey team and the Forum was the epicentre of the sport in the city, this newspaper donated a trophy to the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA).
The Hamilton Spectator Trophy would be presented annually to the major junior squad that finished with the most points in the regular season.
Stan Mikita and his St. Catharines Teepees won it that first year.
Then and every season since, teams that have won it have hung banners from their rafters celebrating the achievement. Ironically, no team from this city has ever been among that group.
Still, having the prize in circulation even as the OHA morphed into the OHL meant that even during those stretches when Hamilton had no junior team we were still sorta, kinda part of the league.
Weird thing though. Nobody can actually recall seeing the trophy itself.
“It was never presented to us by the league,” says Hamilton’s Joe Cirella, who won it two years ago as assistant coach with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds but never actually laid eyes on the hardware.
“We did not receive that,” echoes Erie Otters media relations director Aaron Cooney, whose team won it last season. “It may just be a myth.”
A myth? Surely this august publication didn’t announce it was creating an award and then stiff the league when it came to the actual trophy. There must be a tangible Hamilton Spectator Trophy somewhere.
Yet, there’s not even a picture of it online. Or in the paper’s files for that matter. There have been more sightings of Bigfoot in the Dundas Valley than there have been eyes on The Spectator Trophy. Even if it’s not a myth, it’s certainly in the mist. But it’s got to be real, right? There are a few awards in tro- phy cases at the Spec’s Frid Street building, but this one isn’t among the collection. Nor is it standing forlornly between the no-vice-house-league-league champion award and top-peewee-goalie plaque at any of the city’s arenas.
How about the Hockey Hall of Fame? Might it be on display there as a piece of history? Possibly even tucked away in the hall’s storage f acility that’s the sport’s equivalent of the warehouse in the final scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”?
“Not sure where the trophy is,” says Burlington’s Phil Pritchard, who’s the curator of the place but better known to hockey fans as the guy in the white gloves who carries the Stanley Cup to centre ice each year to give to the winning team. “Might be at the OHL offices.”
Well sure, that’s the obvious answer but it seems like a real longshot. After all, if the league had it, it would surely present it each year, right? Only makes sense. Why have a trophy but not give it to the winner of said cup?
But in the interests of thoroughness …
“It’s in our possession,” says OHL media relations head Paul
Krotz. Seriously? Where? “Storage.” He sends a picture of it as proof. Turns out it’s a glorious old-school wooden beauty covered in tiny gold shields engraved with the names of the winning teams, capped by a silver angel holding a torch aloft with wings spread. Perfectly designed so a new deck could be added at the bottom to hold a new generation of champions.
So mystery solved. Half way anyway. Though the question of why it isn’t in circulation remains.
Krotz says he has no explanation. All he knows is that he’s been with the league for nine years and it’s never been physically presented to any team in that time.
Call us biased if you like, but it’s time for this to be fixed.
There’s no doubt the trophy teams really, really want to win is the J. Ross Robertson Cup which goes to the playoff champion. Nobody’s pretending otherwise. But there is something to be said for success over the course of the entire season.
Having a team photo with the trophy honouring that kind of success in the foreground would mean something to the players and coaches. If not now, then a few years down the road when they look back on it.
Bringing it onto the ice the last day of the season — or the first game of the next season — would be a moment for the fans, too.
C’mon, the NHL hands out the actual Lady Byng Trophy every year and nobody wants to win that.
Yet it’s an award that’s part of the f abric and history of the league so it’s respected. Same should happen here.
It’s time to buff the silver and blow off the cobwebs and celebrate success over 68 games as if it mattered.
Hopefully we don’t have to wait until a Hamilton team wins it, though that would be a fitting moment.
This award wasn’t intended to be just about this city.
The league knows where The Spectator Trophy is. It has it.
Time to put it back in circulation.
The Hamilton Spectator Trophy