By Jack Miller
Imagine a league with almost 140 teams.
It’s a staggering thought. And yet the Trenton Golden Hawks and Wellington Dukes are part of that monster organization known as the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
The CJHL is the umbrella organization for 10 Junior “A” Hockey Leagues in Canada including the Ontario Junior Hockey League which is home to the Hawks and Dukes. It’s twice the size of the CHL which oversees the OHL, the WHL and the QMJHL.
We seldom think about Junior “A” Hockey in such grand terms, at least not until this time of year when 132 teams is whittled down to 13 competing in 3 regional tournament style playdowns across the country including the Dudley-Hewitt Cup.
The Golden Hawks and Georgetown Raiders had to go through four playoff rounds just to get to this point. Now they face the champions of the Northern Ontario Hockey League and the Superior International Hockey League. Meanwhile parallel tournaments are happening in Penticton British Columbia where the Western Canada Cup brings the winners from the B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba leagues together along with the host Penticton Vees. And the winners from the Central Canadian Hockey League, Quebec and Atlantic Canada will descend on the Montreal suburb of Terrebonne, Que., to vie for the Fred Page Cup.
Survivors from that trio of tournaments move on to the National Championships which this year will be held just down the road in Cobourg.
To put that into perspective consider that the team that hoists the Stanley Cup plays four rounds then it’s off to Disneyworld. The team that wins the OJHL championship also plays four rounds. The reward for winning the Buckland Cup is to face the champions from two other leagues in the Dudley-Hewitt. And the winner of that squares off against the victors from two other regional championships with the RBC Cup on the line. And when that’s over players can then book their trip to Orlando.
Since its inception in 1971 there have been 4 local winners of the Dudley Hewitt. The Belleville Bulls were the first in 1981 when they played in the old Provincial Junior Hockey League. In those days the national chammpionship was known as the Centennial Cup which was held in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. The Bulls advanced to the final before losing to the Prince Albert Raiders.
The Wellington Dukes captured the “Dudley” in 2003 in Fort Frances and went on to the RBC in Charlottetown where they lost to the eventual champion Humboldt Broncos in the semi finals. The Dukes would win the Dudley again in 2011 in Huntsville and advance to the RBC in Camrose, Alberta where they would again fall in the semi final, this time to the Vernon Vipers.
Wellington played in the 2014 Dudley-Hewitt as the host team but lost to the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots in the final.
This is Trenton’s second appearance in the “Dudley”. They won it in Kirkland Lake last year then boarded a plane to Edmonton followed by a three-hour bus trip to Lloydminster on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Their season ended with a loss to the host Lloydminster Bobcats in the RBC semi finals.
A season that began with exhibition games in August and ended nine months later on May 21st. While the Stanley Cup is the biggest prize to win in hockey, the RBC Cup is the hardest.
— Jack Miller is the Sports Director
of CJBQ –MIX 97 and ROCK 107
Photo by Andy Corneau OJHL Images