As Noel takes to the ice with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Saint John Sea Dogs Friday night in Windsor, Ont., he will look to become the sixth hockey player from the province to be part of a team that won the Memorial Cup, emblematic of supremacy in the CHL, which takes in the Quebec, Ontario and Western major junior leagues.
The five who have already won it are Bob Dean of Botwood (1962 with the Hamilton Red Wings), Kevin Neville of Corner Brook (1973, Toronto Marlboros), Chad Penney of Labrador City (1993, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), Jonathan Boone of Bell Island (1999, Ottawa 67s) and Ryan.
The ‘Botwood Bullet” was an 18-year-old rookie with the Ontario Hockey Association’s Red Wings, who defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 1962 Memorial Cup final with a roster that also included future NHL standouts Paul Henderson, Lowell MacDonald and Pit Martin.
The smooth-skating Dean had been invited to try out for the Red Wings after scouts for the teams saw him help the Grand Falls Cataracts win the 1961 Newfoundland junior title. That fall, he emerged from a training camp group of about 120 to win one of 21 spots on the Hamilton roster and found himself on the same forward line with Henderson, who would be Canada’s Summit Series hero 1o years later.
Unlike today, no tournament format was used for the 1962 event. It was a straight best-of-seven series between the OHA’s Red Wings and Western champion Oil Kings, whose lineup included an 18-year-old Glen Sather.
Hamilton took the series in five games.
What was also different was the trophy. The original Memorial Cup, which was created in 1919, was placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962. The present one is a replica.
What wasn’t different, according to Dean, was the hoopla.
"I guarantee it was as big a deal then as it is today," Dean told The Telegram for a 2007 story. "The rinks were blocked for every series, sold-out crowds every night. It was a great feeling. We had all kinds of stuff given to us from all kinds of companies when we won. We were given coats, suits, hats … companies gave us everything for winning."
Neville and Mike Palmateer formed the goaltending tandem for the 1973 Ontario champion Marlies, with a lineup of skaters that included Bruce Boudreau, Mark and Marty Howe, Bob Dailey, Wayne Dillon and Glen Goldup, who would all later play in the NHL.
In fact, all but three players on the 1972-73 Marlies were drafted by NHL teams. Neville was picked in the 10th round by Detroit just weeks after the Memorial Cup win.
The Marlies won the cup at the Montreal Forum, beating a Quebec Remparts team that included Andre Savard, Guy Chouinard and Real Cloutier 9-1 in the final.
Neville didn't play in any of the three games in the tournament, which also involved the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. Marlies coach George Armstrong — the Hall of Famer and legendary Maple Leafs' captain— went with the hot hand of the diminutive Mike Palmateer, who would go on to play as a starter in the NHL with the Leafs and Washington Capitals.
But Neville has nothing but praise for Armstrong.
"George Armstrong kept us down to earth,” Neville told The Telegram’s Robin Short in 2008 “He treated us off the ice like we were his teammates and we had so much respect for him.
“He wouldn't go around cursing and screaming, but if he had a point to make, he made it. He was a class act. We would have walked over chopped glass for him."
While Penney is one of five Memorial Cup winners from this province, he holds the distinction of being the only one of the quintet who won the Memorial Cup and played for Canada at a world junior championship.
He appeared in all seven games with the Canadian team that finished out of the medals at the 1992 event in Germany.
By that time, the Memorial Cup format had changed again to include a host team, and it was Sault Ste. Marie which had the duty in 1993.
The Greyhounds proved they were more than a fill-in, eventually beating the Peterborough Petes, the same team that had defeated them in the OHL final, by a 4-2 score in the Memorial Cup championship game.
Penney, a left-winger who had been acquired by the Greyhounds in a mid-season trade with North Bay, had a great tournament, with five goals and two assists in four games.
It was Penney’ last go-round in major junior hockey. A second-round draft pick (25th overall) of the Ottawa Senators in 1992, he turned professional the following year and got into three NHL games with Ottawa, but spent the rest of his six-year pro career in the minors, mostly the AHL.
Boone’s Memorial Cup experience is particularly noteworthy since he was part of teams that hosted the championship event in back-to-back years.
In 1999, an 18-year-old Boone was a rookie on the OHL’s Ottawa 67s, who pulled off a shocker by beating the Calgary Hitmen in overtime in the final.
The Brian Kilrea-coached 67s had been bounced from the OHL playoffs in the second round, but after a long wait before the Memorial Cup, claimed the national title despite a less than star-studded lineup — defenceman Nick Boynton may have been the most notable player on the roster.
Even though he appeared in just 28 regular-season games and no playoff contests that 1998-99 season, Boone got a Memorial Cup ring, which he could use as an incentive for his Halifax Mooseheads teammates (including Corner Brook’s Jason King) the following year. With assistance from Kilrea, he had changed teams — and leagues — in the summer of 1999 and joined the QMJHL’s Mooseheads, who just happened be the Memorial Cup hosts in 2000.
This time, Boone — a checking winger — got to play in all four of his team’s games in the tournament, but Halifax was ousted in a semifinal loss to the Barrie Colts.
Had the Mooseheads managed to win it all, Boone would have made history as the only player to ever win Memorial Cups with host teams in different leagues.
Ryan, a graduate of the St. John's AAA Maple Leafs midget program, was a 19-year-old left-winger with Mooseheads when they won the Memorial Cup four years ago with a 6-4 win over the Portland Winterhawks in the final.
"When Nate (Nathan MacKinnon) got that last goal into an empty net, and the final buzzer went, well, it's pretty hard to describe the feeling," Ryan told The Telegram after the Mooseheads’ win in Saskatoon.
"And I thought the President's Cup (QMJHL championship) was a big deal.”
Despite suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for a dozen games, Ryan scored 21 goals for Halifax that season.
Besides MacKinnon, who would be a first overall draft pick by the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, Halifax also had forward Jonathan Drouin and goalie Zach Fucale that year.
"But this is a special team. We're very close-knit, (even) with the big names. No matter what happens I can say I played with those guys and won a Memorial Cup with them,” said Ryan, who spent two more seasons in the Q and most recently skated in the Central West Senior Hockey League with the Gander Flyers.