The 2019-20 Canadian Hockey League season is officially underway after a pair of Thursday night games.
The Niagara IceDogs defeated the Sudbury Wolves by a 6-3 score and even though the visiting Blainville-Boisbriand Armada emerged victorious 5-4 over the host Rouyn-Noranda Huskies the night belonged to the defending champions.
Three celebrations highlighted exciting pre-game festivities as the organization opened the 51st season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by unveiling banners to commemorate the 2018-19 Jean-Rougeau Trophy (QMJHL Regular Season Champions), the President’s Cup (QMJHL Playoff Champions), and the franchise’s first Memorial Cup title.
The 2018-19 Huskies won an impressive 59 games, earned 119 points, and tied a CHL record with 25 consecutive regular season victories. Their second league title in four years led to CHL supremacy skating to a 4-2 triumph over the Halifax Mooseheads in the 101st edition of the Memorial Cup Presented by Kia.
The trophies were presented on the ice alongside dignitaries while the three banners were hoisted by Huskies Louis-Filip Côté, Tyler Hinam, Vincent Marleau, Alexis Arsenault and William Cyr of the Armada. Owner Jacques Blais, Mayor of Rouyn-Noranda Diane Dallaire, former Huskies scouts Daniel Leblanc and Raphaël Pouliot accompanied former Huskies player Samuel Naud for the ceremonial puck drop.
It was a special evening for Cyr, who spent the three past seasons with the Huskies, and his presence was not lost on his former teammates in the lineup Thursday night.
“We went to war with him. It was special to have him there with us,” Marleau told Jean-Francois Vachon of Le Citoyen Rouyn. “It was moving. We have lived so many beautiful moments. It gave us flashbacks.”
Added Huskies head coach Mario Pouliot, “I think it shows the kind of team we were. These are guys who grew up together, it was a beautiful moment. It was a beautiful ceremony. It brings back beautiful memories.”
While there are some key departures from last year’s winning squad, particularly Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy winner Joel Teasdale, Jean Beliveau Trophy recipient Peter Abbandonato, and starting goaltender Samuel Harvey, several key talents from the 2018-19 team have returned, including Marleau, fellow forward Alex Beaucage, and offensive rearguard Justin Bergeron.
Following Thursday’s contest, the Huskies are set to return to action Saturday against the Shawinigan Cataractes. In the meantime, opening weekend continues across the CHL on Friday night with a busy 24-game schedule.