Grand Falls-Windsor — With the sound of fire engine sirens and car horns filling the air, it was difficult for the 2011 Herder Memorial Trophy champion Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts to hear the fans Sunday afternoon.
But with hundreds of area residents lining the streets, chants of “Go, Cats, Go!,” echoed along the route of a motorcade that began in Botwood, drove through Bishop’s Falls and concluded at the Grand Falls-Windsor Town Hall.
The parade was less than 24 hours after the Cataracts dispatched the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars 4-0 Saturday night at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium, sweeping The Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series in straight games.
Jeremy Bishop, who played several years with the Cats before joining the Corner Brook Royals for a couple seasons, admitted he had not expected to be celebrating a Herder win in his hometown this year.
“I always wanted to come back and play here, but I never thought it would happen,” said Bishop, signed by the team just prior to the Jan. 10 player registration deadline.
“To win it at home with all my buddies is fantastic. I still don’t know if it’s for real.”
It was the first Herder for Grand Falls-Windsor since 1981-82, when the Cataracts won the second of two Herders and the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League championship.
The win was a record 11th Herder championship for Grand Falls-Windsor, which also includes a 1952-53 title by the Grand Falls All-Stars and five straight by the old Grand Falls Andcos from 1954-55 to 1958-59.
Mark Yetman stopped all 27 shots he faced for the shutout Saturday night. Brandon Nicholas, Greg Hoffe, Matt Quinn and David Philpott scored the goals.
Bishop said the key to their sweep of the CeeBees was the Cataracts’ simple desire to play solid, mistake-free hockey.
“Winning just comes to these guys,” he said. “We never had a superstar or a high profile player. We had 25 people that bought into (head coach) Casey’s system and here we are.”
“We’re an honest team,” said Casey. “We played honest every night and we let our work ethic dictate the way we played.
“I always wanted to come back and play here, but I never thought it would happen. To win it at home with all my buddies is fantastic. I still don’t know if it’s for real.” - Jeremy Bishop
“It was the attitude of the guys on and off the ice. They acted like professionals from day one. They played hard for each other and overall it was just a great team effort.”
Botwood native Mike Brent, in his fifth season with the Cats, said his youth was filled with stories of the former Cataracts squads.
He said the feeling of winning the biggest prize in Newfoundland senior hockey is inexplicable.
“Everywhere you look, there are people so joyful about what we did this season,” he said.
The Cats continued their dominance of the CeeBees at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium on Friday night with a decisive 8-2 win. Grand Falls-Windsor took the first two games of the series last weekend at Mile One Centre.
General manager Dave Canning, who has been a fixture with the Cataracts since the team’s rebirth eight years ago, said the Herder win was the culmination of years of effort.
Canning, well known in the area as a sports organizer, is recognized by fans for his willingness to do anything to help his club, from taping sticks and filling water bottles to recruiting players.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “It was a long time coming and we tried hard for a lot of years, but it was like it was never meant to be. We always got a bad bounce here or there.
“This year, everything came together from the beginning, from the time we got Brian Casey to sign on and bring his experience and respect. From there we brought in some additions and everything just gelled.”
Canning said since their championship win, he has spoken to most of the players about their return.
He said he has a commitment from more than three-quarters of the team to play for Grand Falls-Windsor again next year.
“There are a few who have to evaluate their home and work commitments,” he said. “There are always a few who can’t come back, but for those who can’t, there are two or three always in the works.”