The Stanley Cup Playoffs reached its pinnacle during September, but that’s not the only place Canadian Hockey League alumni celebrated success.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights:
The Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted Lord Stanley with a six-game series victory over the Dallas Stars powered large-in-part by some of the 19 CHL alumni on the roster. Nikita Kucherov (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) led the team in points and assists, while Brayden Point (Moose Jaw Warriors) scored the most goals, and captain Steven Stamkos (Sarnia Sting) was an inspirational presence while battling injury.
A trio of Lightning added to their championship resumes having won Memorial Cup titles during their time in the CHL. Those players include Tyler Johnson (Spokane Chiefs) in 2008, Anthony Cirelli (Oshawa Generals) in 2015, and Mikhail Sergachev (Windsor Spitfires) in 2017.
While 20 different CHL organizations were represented among the players competing for the Lightning, their victory meant three teams could celebrate their first ever Stanley Cup champion. That list includes the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada courtesy of Cedric Paquette, the North Bay Battalion thanks to Barclay Goodrow, and the Saint John Sea Dogs with Mathieu Joseph.
Individual hardware was also presented in September in recognition of some outstanding achievements. Eight CHL alumni were winners of NHL Awards including Leon Draisaitl (Kelowna Rockets) who took home MVP honours in the form of the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award to go along with his Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer. Coach Bruce Cassidy (Ottawa 67’s), top defensive forward Sean Couturier (Drummondville Voltigeurs), humanitarian Matt Dumba (Portland Winterhawks), leadership figure Mark Giordano (Owen Sound Attack), goals-against co-leader Jaroslav Halak (Lewiston MAINEiacs), most sportsmanlike player Nathan MacKinnon (Halifax Mooseheads), and the dedicated Bobby Ryan (Owen Sound Attack) were also honoured.
A total of six former players were also named NHL All-Stars with first team nods going to Draisaitl and John Carlson (London Knights), with second team accolades for Kucherov, MacKinnon, Brad Marchand (Halifax Mooseheads), and Alex Pietrangelo (Barrie Colts). Two more recent CHL grads were named to the All-Rookie Team including Dominik Kubalik (Kitchener Rangers) and Nick Suzuki (Guelph Storm).
In other off-ice news, former Kingston Frontenacs forward Chris Stewart called it a career after 668 NHL games played over parts of 11 seasons with seven teams. The 32-year-old from Toronto blossomed as an undrafted OHL free agent following his older brother Anthony to Kingston where he developed into a first round pick in the 2006 NHL Draft. He will remain involved in the game transitioning to a role with the Philadelphia Flyers in Player Development.
In Hockey Operations news, the Arizona Coyotes have hired CHL alumnus Bill Armstrong as their new general manager. The former Oshawa Generals defenceman famously scored the double overtime goal to win the 1990 Memorial Cup, and most recently helped the St. Louis Blues find success while serving as Assistant General Manager and Director of Amateur Scouting.
The interim tag has been lifted from Geoff Ward‘s title as the Calgary Flames officially named him head coach. The 58-year-old took over bench boss duties midway through the 2019-20 campaign during his second season as an associate. The former Kitchener Rangers and Guelph Storm head coach has now spent 12 seasons in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.
The San Jose Sharks also solidified their staff by officially naming Bob Boughner head coach. Another midseason replacement, the former Soo Greyhounds defenceman continues his second tour of duty with the Sharks after previously serving as an assistant following eight seasons behind the bench for the Windsor Spitfires. The two-time CHL Coach of the Year and Memorial Cup champion has two years of head coaching experience in the NHL with the Florida Panthers.
Joining Boughner’s staff is another former Spitfires coach, Rocky Thompson, who won the 2017 Memorial Cup in just his second OHL season. He’s spent the last three seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have hired a pair of CHL graduates to fill assistant coach positions including Manny Malhotra and Paul MacLean. The former won an OHL championship back in 1998 with the Guelph Storm before an NHL career that spanned 991 games through 2014-15 and then three seasons as an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks. The latter played for the Hull Olympiques in 1977-78 before an NHL career of his own that lasted 719 games. The 2013 Jack Adams Trophy winner was most recently part of the Columbus Blue Jackets staff.
Windsor Spitfires assistant coach Mike Weber is moving on to new opportunities in the AHL after spending the last two seasons with the OHL club he played for from 2004-07. The former NHL defenceman chosen in the second round of the 2006 NHL Draft will be joining the Rochester Americans staff when play resumes.
The ECHL’s Rapid City Rush have signed recent CHL grad Gary Haden. The 21-year-old centre from Airdrie, Alberta, just finished his fifth WHL season as a member of the Victoria Royals after previously suiting up for the Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers.
One of the best to ever play between-the-pipes in Victoria is headed to U SPORTS. Goaltender Griffen Outhouse, who finished his four-year WHL career in 2019, most recently played a season of pro between ECHL Jacksonville and AHL Manitoba. He’s now enrolled at the University of New Brunswick where he’ll man the crease for the Reds.
Some of the only hockey being played these days is overseas and in the KHL a former CHL defenceman quickly made his mark. 2019 OHL champion Dmitri Samorukov (Guelph Storm) opened play with a goal just 51 seconds into action for CSKA Moscow. He’s a 2017 Edmonton Oilers third round pick who spent last season with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
2016 CHL Humanitarian of the Year Will Petschenig recently released a trailer for a documentary about ‘A Heart Like Mine’. That’s the name of the program he created during his final OHL season as a member of the Saginaw Spirit helping youth who have lost a parent. The 2015 Memorial Cup champion lost his father back in 2013 when he was a member of the Oshawa Generals.
From the ice to the greens. That’s where Mitchell Theoret (Barrie Colts) has taken his athletic career. The five-year OHL forward who was drafted by the New York Islanders in the seventh round back in 2011 is now a professional caddie with golfer Taylor Pendrith. The pair enjoyed some recent success qualifying for the final round at the U.S Open finishing tied for 23rd in their first major championship.
In partnership with Kia Canada, the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL will be spotlighting alumni in a series of video features this season. The digital program began in September and so far includes interviews with Ty Ronning (Vancouver Giants), Sam Fioretti (Moose Jaw Warriors), Liam Heelis (Owen Sound Attack), Garrett McFadden (Guelph Storm), Nathan Chiarlitti (Sarnia Sting), and Nathanael Halbert (Sherbrooke Phoenix).