One small step for Kingston hockey

On the morning after the night before, Kingston hockey fans don’t really know how they should be feeling today.

Nobody wants to seem too desperate celebrating a first round playoff win, but when you have spent an entire generation in junior hockey’s abyss, the ‘get out of jail’ card feels pretty darn good doesn’t it?

I’ve thrown my share of darts at the two Dougie’s (Gilmour and Springer),  now they deserve props along with coach Paul McFarland and his staff , for taking a team that no one expected to win,  adding the right pieces, and winning an Eastern Conference title.

A club record forty-six regular season wins and 97 points is pretty impressive, but if you don’t win in the playoffs no one remembers.

In Kingston we’ve been conditioned to expect the worst, and it’s usually turned out that way.    It might explain why there was two thousand empty seats to witness the historic occasion at KRock Friday night.

Still plenty of non-believers and who can blame them, based on two decades of futility.    It will take more than  four playoff victories to bring  back the cynical hockey fans in this town.

People got to saying over the years that Kingston was a lousy  hockey town. We’ve always been a good hockey town,  saddled with terrible teams.

For once instead of ‘waiting till next year’,  we’re looking forward to the next round.

Years of blind hope has morphed into an air of confidence,  that regardless of who the Fronts play they have a legitimate shot to win.

When is the last time we could say that?   Never as an OHL franchise.

There was that blip in 2009 when the Kingston Voyageurs went on a great run to the RBC Cup.   However, I wouldn’t say the entire community was caught up in it.

Before that?   The ’67 Aces, ’63 EPHL Frontenacs and those great Goodyear Senior B teams in the mid 1950’s.

As an OHL franchise all we’ve got are stories of heartbreak;   Mark Napier’s goal that still hasn’t gone in,  Ken Linseman suspended in the playoffs after kicking Ottawa’s Jeff Geiger in the forehead and David Ling’s busted hand going into the ’95 playoffs.

That’s it, that’s all.

Most junior hockey franchises can bring back former stars to celebrate a championship or two.  In Kingston we could easily cobble together hockey’s largest support group for hockey heartache.

Maybe 20 years from now we’ll be celebrating the great run of 2016?

I’ve always believed nothing builds civic pride more than a winning team.   For the next few weeks we can stop talking about dismantling KEDCO and building the Third Crossing.

Now we can just focus on hockey.

Kingston has never really embraced our rich hockey history.   We should be ‘Hockey Town Canada’, but we’re ashamed to be,  because we know the reality is we haven’t won anything in a really long time.

How can you be ‘Hockey Town’ when your team has been the longest running punchline in Canadian junior hockey?

Maybe that’s about to change?    It’s only four wins and they beat a rebuilding Oshawa Generals team with 14 players getting their first taste of the OHL playoffs.

But it’s a start.  Let’s see if we can build on it.