On the night when the clocks went ahead, we reached back a few decades at the Kingston Memorial Centre. A raucous crowd of 2,800 jammed the nearly 70-year-old rink to watch the tricolour win the Queen’s Cup for the first time in 38-years, with a 4-1 win over Guelph. In the final two minutes, the crowd was as loud as any I have heard in this town. This used to happen every year or two, now these moments are separated by decades. On the list of things I thought I’d never see, was Queen’s winning a trophy first awarded in 1903, second oldest to the Stanley Cup, in front of a packed house on York Street in 2019.
It was ‘Throwback Saturday’, taking us back to the 1950s and 1960s when this scene was routine. The Kingston Nylons, CKLC’s, Goodyears, EPHL Frontenacs, Junior B Frontenacs, Senior ‘A’ Aces and Senior ‘B’ Merchants all won titles at the York Street barn during that era. Their faded team photos still hanging on the Memorial Centre walls outside the Queen’s dressing room. After 50-plus years, time to make room for a new one and give this Queen’s team its rightful place in our hockey history.
Four minutes into the third period and tied 1-1 it was far from decided, Queen’s forward Jaden Lindo came down the right side and threw the puck at the Guelph net, somehow it managed to elude Gryphons goalie Andrew Masters, who wasn’t hugging the post tightly enough. The hockey Gods were smiling on Queen’s and for Lindo, who opened the scoring for Queen’s on an early second-period powerplay, the two goals matched his regular season total (in just a dozen games played) and put Queen’s ahead to stay. Three minutes later, Henry Thompson had the best snipe of the night to make it 3-1 and the party was kicking into high-gear.
Queen’s iced it in the final minute on Liam Dunda’s empty netter to close out a 4-1 win. At the final buzzer, the on-ice celebration would match any Queen’s kegger at Homecoming. Lindo basking in the moment, reflected on being recruited from the OHL’s Sarnia Sting two-years ago when he told Queen’s coach Brett Gibson, “If I’m coming to Queen’s, I want to win a championship”. Mission accomplished.
Queen’s came into this season with ten new players and an entirely new assistant coaching staff. A fourth-place regular season finish didn’t exactly point to the Queen’s Cup, but, Gibson called his young team, “special and a fun group”. He said the turning point for the program came a few years ago when along with former assistant coaches Tony Cimellaro and Andrew Haussler they decided, “if we don’t start recruiting harder, coaching harder, there’s no point in having a program. Once we made that decision, we went after the Kevin Bailie’s, Spencer Abraham’s, the sky is the limit, we have NHL draft picks coming to Queen’s now”.
The last glimpse most Kingston hockey fans had of this team was being steamrolled by RMC at the Carr-Harris Cup a few short weeks ago. Maybe that was the wakeup call the Gaels needed. With leaders like Spencer Abraham and Slater Doggett, the passengers in the room would’ve been reminded it wasn’t nearly good enough. Maybe, it was that embarrassing loss that sparked this terrific post-season run culminating with their second Queen’s Cup win since 1914. Next up, the University Cup in Lethbridge and the chance to win a national title.
The credit lies squarely at the feet of Brett Gibson. The likable Gananoque native, ‘Gibby’, a few months shy of his fortieth birthday, began his Queen’s journey 14-seasons ago and like any coach has endured his share of heartbreaking losses to get here. Quick to deflect the credit, Gibson has brought the Queen’s program to a new stratosphere, through his leadership, he’s created a winning culture and sold the program to some of the brightest and best junior hockey players in the country. Recruiting for Queen’s just got a whole lot easier, just roll the video of Saturday night’s win and who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?
For the rest of us, it’s a glimpse back to what hockey in Kingston used to look like, when championships were won. It was worth the wait.
Mark Potter is President of the Original Hockey Hall of Fame, Kingston Sports Hall of Fame inductee & has spent a lifetime following hockey in Kingston.