Potter’s Hockey Wish List For The Next Decade

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1. New owners for the Kingston Frontenacs. ‘Well-intentioned’, clearly doesn’t translate to playoff wins. The Springer family have been OHL owners since the late ’90s and the on-ice record speaks for itself. New owners, a return to the Kingston Canadians name & uniforms, a fresh start with real hockey people in charge and long lost fans might even find their way back to the Leon’s Centre. Winning will do that. When you don’t win for decades and nobody cares that’s trouble.

2. Build a new rink at Queen’s. They tore down the Jock Harty with no real plan to replace it. Queen’s has elite hockey programs, both men’s and women’s, and they play out of a 70-year old arena off-campus. It’s embarrassing. They found a way to build the Isabel Bader Centre and to refurbish a football stadium that nobody goes to, surely there is a path to building a new 2,000 seat arena on the site of the former St. Mary’s of The Lake Hospital. Does Stu Lang like hockey? (Lang, a former Queen’s football star, donated millions towards the new Richardson Stadium).

Voyageurs _ City Hall _ 2019.62204160

3. Bring back the Kingston Voyageurs. Kingston needs Tier II hockey if for no other reason than to allow our local, elite players to stay home and pursue their hockey dreams here. It needs to be in the Central Canada Hockey League with Ottawa-area teams. We’re sending kids to places like Smiths Falls and Wellington to play Tier II. Really?

4. Kingston needs just one Minor Hockey Association. Like many other communities we have far too many silos within minor hockey. We need ONE minor hockey association with a single vision that offers it all; house league, girl’s hockey, Triple-A. While we’re at it let’s get rid of Single-A to improve house league and let’s get a funding model in place to ensure kids who are good enough to play Triple-A can actually afford it.

5. Stop the insanity at the Memorial Centre. You can’t put lipstick on a pig and you can’t dump $40 million more into the Memorial Centre. That’s just a really bad idea. It’s a glorified dog park with an arena at least 40 years past its ‘best before’ date. Tear it down and put up a plaque. If you want to do something useful twin two new rinks on the property, put bowl seating in one of the rinks and mothball Centre 70.  Turn the dog park into mixed use residential housing and if anyone wants to go the Kingston Fall Fair, it will be on McAdoos Lane.

6. I will admit my own bias here, but let’s put the Original Hockey Hall of Fame somewhere people will see it. Kingston is the birthplace of hockey and we need to embrace the story, share it with tourists and relocate the museum to the Market Wing of City Hall that backs on to the outdoor ice surface at Market Square. Another downtown attraction for tourists. Kingston has a wonderful, rich hockey history.  Let’s share it.

And if I can throw in one extra; let’s play an outdoor game on the parade square at Fort Henry and have Queen’s & RMC renew hockey’s oldest rivalry there. Now that would be cool.

Who knows what the next decade will bring for Kingston hockey, but let’s hope we can continue to collectively grow the game here and win a few championships along the way. We can dream right?

Mark Potter is an honoured member of the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame and has followed local sports since he was a kid in Portsmouth Village.

  

 

Clifford’s Number 29 Banner Raised

Chris Clifford goal

For many Kingston hockey fans Chris Clifford’s goal in January 1986 is the standalone moment from 45-plus years of OHL hockey in the Limestone City. I share that view, followed closely by another game involving the Toronto Marlboros, the 1975 epic playoff series where Mark Napier scored a goal that still hasn’t gone in, or the 1990 playoff game in Belleville that went four extra periods before the Bulls ended it.

On the night they raised Clifford’s number-29 banner at the Leon’s Centre it’s easy to remember the ‘good old days’ of the Kingston Canadians era, until we remind you that chapter for the franchise ended with 28 consecutive losses in 1988. All that was forgotten on Friday night with the focus on Clifford and the Frontenacs wearing Kingston Canadians uniforms for the first time in over three decades. Kudos to the Fronts for a perfectly executed, emotional pre-game ceremony. It hit all the right notes and Clifford, as you would expect, was gracious, humble and genuinely touched by the honour. The home side rose to the occasion playing inspired hockey in their new red-blue-and-white jersey’s rolling over the Peterborough Petes 7-2.

Kingston Frontenacs Peterborough Petes during Ontario Hockey League

On that cold January night in 1986, 1,200 fans were at the Memorial Centre to see the Canadians and Toronto Marlboros when Clifford made history with a huge assist from Mike Maurice. He became the first goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League to score a goal into an empty Toronto net. I was calling the game on the radio with Jim Gilchrist and had ducked out with about 2 minutes remaining to head back downtown to the TV station to prepare the sports for the 11 o’clock news. I heard the roar from the parking lot and found myself  two-minutes and 100-yards away from witnessing hockey history. The next morning, Jim Tatti, the popular co-host of Global TV’s Sportsline show was on the phone wanting the video. The game wasn’t televised, CKWS-TV wasn’t there shooting the game and the only video that existed was the in-house video from the Canadians. It wasn’t great footage, but we shipped it to Toronto on a Voyageur bus where it aired on Global TV and ultimately on TV stations across North America. That Saturday the OHL Game of the Week was aired from Belleville and Clifford made an appearance on the broadcast where of course the video of his historic one-handed, backhand goal was played.

In my 30-years broadcasting OHL hockey, I had the opportunity to meet and interview hundreds of players. A handful stood out as people you knew would be successful wherever life took them. Clifford was among them. Thoughtful, articulate, insightful, and reflective, interviewing Chris was never a string of typical hockey cliches.  He’s always had that appealing, humble, ‘aw-shucks’ demeanour that is rare among elite athletes.  Clifford had a brief stint in the NHL with Chicago, didn’t allow a goal in two relief appearances (and stopped the legendary Gilbert Perreault on a breakaway). Chicago had two other future Hall of Fame goalie prospects; Eddie Belfour and Dominik Hasek (who would be traded to Buffalo) and Clifford spent seven seasons riding the buses in the minors for Chicago and Pittsburgh. He chipped away at university correspondence courses before quitting pro hockey to return home to Kingston and ultimately earned his law degree at Queen’s. Today, Clifford and Ted Bergeron run one of the most successful personal injury law practices in Southern Ontario and they generously volunteer and support many local charities giving back to our community in a significant way.  For Clifford, the historic goal is just a footnote in a long list of successes. In life there may be ‘no parade at the end’, but occasionally along the journey one of the really good guys is properly recognized and a banner is raised in his honour. No one is more deserving or appreciative than Kingston’s number 29.

Mark Potter is the Past President of the Original Hockey Hall of Fame and a longtime sports broadcaster. He broadcast Kingston Canadians hockey through the 1980’s.