Newfoundland’s representative at the Don Johnson Memorial Cup Eastern Canadian Junior B hockey championship will open against the host Strait Pirates today in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., but it doesn’t bother coach David Hutchens one bit.
In fact, the Avalon Roebothan McKay Marshall Capitals mentor said he “wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”
Hutchens said his team coming off a “pretty emotional” Game 5 overtime win over the Southern Shore C&W Offshore Breakers in the St. John’s Penney Kia Junior Hockey League championship game in front of a capacity crowd at the Goulds Arena a few weeks ago is the perfect way to start the tournament.
“They (Pirates) are going to be up for it. We’re going to be up for it and the crowd is going to be up for it. That makes for a great atmosphere,” he said.
The other teams in the tournament include Sackville N.S., Blazers, Kensington P.E.I. Vipers, Fredericton N.B., Caps and Casselman Vikings, the first time a team from Ontario has competed in the tournament. The Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League will play host to the event in 2015.
“I expect all the teams to be strong,” said Hutchens, who says his team will be “right there in the middle of the pack.”
Hutchens said his team doesn’t need to improve on anything at this point.
“If we play like we did in our playoffs, we have a chance to win.
“Our team defence has been great all year and have gotten us to where we are and if we get good work from our defencemen and goalie we’ll be there Sunday I hope,” he said refering to the championship game.
In the meantime, he said the entire team made the trip and everyone is healthy.
The Capitals play the Pirates 8 p.m. tonight followed by a game against Prince Edward Island 4 p.m. Wednesday, Ontario at 12:30 Thursday and Nova Scotia Friday at 12:30. All games will be played at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
Playing for the Don Johnson Cup, which is named after the Newfoundland hockey legend, means a lot to Hutchens but he realizes most of his young players did not know the man.
He noted the entire Avalon coaching staff, which also includes assistant coach Steve Marshall along with assistant coach and general manager Derrick Hutchens, David’s father, knew Johnson, a former president of what is now Hockey Canada and a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame, who died two years ago.
“Unfortunately,” added the Capitals head coach, “a lot of our players never got to meet the man. But we’ve told them who he is, what the Cup is all about and what Don Johnson represented to our province and to hockey. We tried to really get into their heads how important that man was to local and Atlantic hockey. They know what they are playing for, it’s just to bad they never got to meet him.”
Awarded first in 1982, Newfoundland and Labrador teams dominated the Cup throughout the ’80s, winning five of the first seven Don Johnson Cups. The tournament was retired in 1990 only to be brought back a few years later.