Our Cup run­neth … away

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SCOTT RADLEY

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 ON­TARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE

The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor Tro­phy

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