Buzzzzzzzz! The alarm goes off at 5:30 am. It’s dark and cold. And time to wake up to drive the kid to the arena for hockey practice. Every hockey parent, fueled by coffee and a dream, has been there.
For the parents of the teenagers playing in the 2018 TELUS Cup this April, the cost of raising an AAA player, those early mornings, hours spent driving to practices and games, weekends away at tournaments, and a steady diet of hot dogs, hot chocolate and Tums, have all been worth it.
Five top teams of young men from throughout Canada and, many of their parents, will be in Sudbury from April 23 to 29 for Canada’s National Midget Championship. The sixth team, the host team, is our team, the Nickel Capital Wolves.
The TELUS Cup is as good as it gets in Canadian minor hockey. A number of future NHLers have taken part since its inception in 1974, including 53 first-round draft picks, three No. 1 selections (Gord Kluzak, Wendel Clark and Sidney Crosby) and eight future Hockey Hall of Fame inductees (Glenn Anderson, Ron Francis, Mike Gartner, Al MacInnis, Larry Murphy, Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman).
Tammy Simpson is the executive director of the Sudbury Minor Hockey Association, and co-chair of the TELUS Cup organizing committee. Veteran hockey coach Barry McCrory is her co-chair.
The committee has been planning for the tournament since last fall. Simpson speaks to McCrory several times a day, the committee meets regularly, and they hope to recruit 200 volunteers to help out during the event.
The budget for the week-long event is $450,000, and hundreds of details need to be worked out, including school visits to the games, parking, a welcome reception at Science North, and tours of Dynamic Earth.
“Most of the players will never have another chance to go underground in a mine,” says Simpson.
She expects there will be some future NHLers on the ice in Sudbury. For other players, she explains, this championship will be the end of their competitive hockey careers, and it is a memorable way to celebrate.
For Guy Mongeon, who is now a doctor, the national midget championships in 1987 was a hockey highlight. He played with Sudbury’s Burgess Power Train Major Midgets in Gloucester in what was then known as the Air Canada Cup.
“We lost in the semi-finals to Quebec,” remembers Guy.
His high school sweetheart and future wife, Roxanne, was in the stands cheering on the boys from Sudbury. Proud mom and dad will be in the stands watching their son in April. Joel, No. 8, plays defence for the Nickel Capital Wolves.
“The crowd gives the players energy and they often play better with home support,” says Joel, who hopes his team will be the first host team to win the championship.
This will be the sixth time a team from Sudbury has competed in the national championships.
Sudbury hosted the tournament in 1998 and that year, the Wolves won silver.
In 2008, the Nickel Capital Wolves won the TELUS Cup in Arnprior. They beat Winnipeg 6 to 4.
Current head coach Peter Michelutti Jr. was on the coaching team in 2008 when the Sudbury Midgets won the TELUS Cup in Arnprior.
The same coaching staff for the Wolves in 2008 is back for 2018. Head coach Peter Michelutti Jr. has an impressive history of his own chasing the dream. He played junior hockey in Sudbury, Owen Sound and Kindersley, Saskatchewan, and four seasons with Northern Michigan University.
Games are scheduled for noon, 3:30 pm and 7 pm during the round robin. The Nickel Capital Wolves will play every night in the round robin at 7 pm and will play their first game against the Pacific Region champions April 23. All games will be at Sudbury Arena.
The final championship game will be held Sunday, April 29. It will be broadcast on TSN. Tournament passports for all 19 games are $44. Sudbury minor hockey players and their families can take advantage of a promotional rate of $25. Single game tickets will be available.
Less than one percent of minor hockey players make the NHL. Guy Mongeon “retired” from competitive hockey after the 1987 championships. He didn’t have what it takes to make the pros, he admits. Joel, who attends College Notre Dame, is still wishing and hoping. A top student, his goal is to play university hockey.
Joel, 18, is old enough to drive himself to hockey practice at Countryside Sports Complex. He has a busy weekly schedule of workouts, practices and games as he pursues his Canadian dream. A lot of scouts will be in Sudbury to look over Joel and the rest of the talent.