The Royal Bank Cup
Hoisting the Callaghan Cup - Atlantic Champs
For the second time in three seasons, an Island team made it to the Royal Bank Cup championship in the spring of 1999. The Charlottetown Moosehead/A&S Scrap Metal Abbies became the just the fourth Junior “A” organization from PEI to compete in the national tournament. The Charlottetown Islanders, Sherwood-Parkdale Metros and Summerside Western Capitals preceded them.
1998-99 turned out to be a banner year for the Abbies who were almost unbeatable in the regular season in the Maritime Jr. League which primed them for a great playoff run. The Abbies combined for a 57-10-2 record. The team’s winning percentage was .841 - almost unheard of in modern hockey. They had a record 33 game winning streak. Charlottetown won the Roger Meek Division in the Maritime Junior Hockey League handily with a 41-5-2 record in 48 games and 53 points ahead of second place Moncton. Even Maurice Bent Division winner Halifax was 20 points behind. The Abbies then went 16-5 in the playoffs, reaching the national final after setting a league record with 41 wins and 84 points.
The Charlottetown juniors were run by a remarkable man who owned the team named Allan Stewart who had a deep passion for local hockey and not only supported the team financially but also attended all games and handled the day-to-day operation of the club. Stewart, owner of A&S Scrap Metal Ltd., was an astute business man and contributed a lot to not only the Abbies but minor hockey and other sports. Pat Gaudet, a long-time coach and executive was the Abbies General Manager. He was the driving force behind the old Abbies team that played in the late 1970’s and merged with the Generals to form the Charlottetown Eagles late in the decade. The Eagles became the Abbies in the late 80’s departing from the Island Junior Hockey League and joining the Maritime Jr. “A” which included teams in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Summerside Western Capitals also joined the loop but the Sherwood-Parkdale and North River franchises from the old IJHL folded.
The Abbies were one of five teams that would compete for the Canadian Jr. “A” championship in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, May 1-9, 1999. The others were the Bramalea (Ontario) Bandits, Vernon (BC) Vipers, Estevan (Saskatchewan) Bruins and the host Yorkton Terriers. The Abbies arrived healthy despite a long playoff run (although Coach Forbie Kennedy was confined to a wheelchair due to knee problems).
Charlottetown lost 2-1 to the host Terriers to begin the tournament. Chris Tellum had the only Abbies goal on a power play. The Atlantic champs had a better outcome in their second game edging Vernon, 6-5. Craig Miller sparked the Abbies with a pair of goals and an assist. Then a third straight one goal game and the Abbies fell 5-4 to Estevan as the Bruins scored twice in the third. Willie Hubloo scored a pair for Charlottetown. The Abbies finally broke out and dropped playoff bound Bramalea, 5-1 to improve their record to 3-2 on the final day of the round robin. Hubloo had a goal and two assists and led the tournament in scoring with 4 goals, 5 assists and 9 points. Mike White and Ryan Maxwell also contributed with important goals and set ups in the preliminaries.
The Abbies and hometown Terriers played a thriller in the semi-finals in a game that would take two overtime periods to decide. Charlottetown exploded for four goals in the second period including a power play marker and shorthanded goal but Yorkton kept it to a 5-5 tie that extended into overtime. Brad Simms scored the winner at 5.32 of the second extra period which sent the Abbies to the Royal Bank Cup final against the Veron Vipers who dropped Bramalea, 5-2 to advance in their semi-final game. Fans back on the Island heard the game on CFCY radio with John Eden providing the play-by-play and Vince Mulligan, the former UPEI coach providing the colour. It was excitement all around as the high scoring Abbies reached the deciding game and became the fourth Island team since 1979 to play in the deciding game in the Centennial Cup/Royal Bank Cup. It was only two seasons earlier the Summerside Western Capitals became the first PEI team to win the RBC. The Abbies would have face three time winner Vernon.
The Final – Abbies Running on Fumes
It was not to be. A weary Abbies hockey team reached the Royal Bank Cup championship game facing the Vipers who dashed the dreams of the Summerside Western Capitals only a decade earlier in the Centennial Cup final at Cahill Stadium. The final game began at 1.00 in the afternoon local time and less than 12 hours after the semi-finals were completed. Vernon was the better rested team it appeared as the Vipers took a 3-2 first period lead. Chris Tellum and Ryan Maxwell provided the Abbies goals as the Vipers took three one-goal leads. There was no scoring in the second.
Vernon took charge in the third scoring four times in an eight minute span in the third. The onslaught began at the 6.20 mark Mike Bussoli made it 4-2 and the Vipers never looked back. David Ambler connected for the Abbies with just over 4 minutes left and Charlottetown still trailing, 7-3. Vernon put it out of reach with two more goals as the final period winded down. Tyler Knight and Ryan Bayda led Vipers with two goals each. Vernon opened the tournament losing three straight losses but rebounded to win their fourth Canadian Jr. “A” title. They won their last three games.
Abbies coach Forbie Kennedy praised his players who celebrated Callaghan and Fred Page Cup championships but were denied the RBC title. He says they had a tired team that faced Vernon and just ran out of gas. The Vipers outshot the Abbies, 36-23. Charlottetown goalie Mark Cairns said the turning point was the Bussoli goal which gave the Vipers a two goal lead in the third and took the wind out of the Abbies sails. Defenseman Brad Rice credited Vernon for taking advantage of early opportunities in the final period that led to their big period scoring six times to put it away.
It was not the outcome Charlottetown wanted. Kennedy said his team had a great year despite the final game loss. It was the greatest season ever for the Charlottetown Moosehead/A&S Scrap Metal Abbies who began in 1972, joined the Maritime Jr. League in 1986 and lasted until 2008 when the franchise folded with the Major Jr. PEI Rocket taking over the top billing in town. But what a run the Abbies enjoyed for years capped by the 1999 season.
The Abbies ran away with first place in the Meek Division outscoring their opponents, 266-141 in the process. With 41 wins in 48 contests they distanced themselves from second place Moncton (23-20-7) and third place Restigouche while Summerside finished last (5-41-5). Halifax claimed first in the Bent Division by just a point over Antigonish. The Oland Exports needed three wins in the stretch to take first place and did so with an 11-1 hammering over the Amherst Ramblers on the final day of the season. The Truro Bearcats helped out by edging the Bulldogs, 3-2. Truro was just two points out at season’s end. Amherst and East Hants finished a distant third and fourth.
Willie Hubloo was second in the scoring race as the Abbie centre and winger scored a league high of 45 goals in 42 games and added 30 assists for 75 points while picking up just 35 minutes in penalties. Rick Gorman of the Restigouche River Rats (Campbellton, NB) won the scoring race with 40 goals, 44 assists and 84 points in 48 games. Five Abbies including Hubloo finished in the top ten in scoring. Mike White (22-48-70) was fifth in the race. Ryan Maxwell (35-31-66), Pat Yetman (27-39-66) and Dion Burhoe (23-43-66) tied for seventh. Charlottetown goalie Mark Cairns was third in the league with a 2.82 goals against average (he allowed 105 goals and had a .917 save percentage). Cairns had 31-5-2 record during the regular season.
William Hubloo was a 19 year old right wing and centre who hailed from Kuuijuaq in northern Quebec. At 5’7” and 175 pounds he was small in stature but big in heart and tough, hard skating forward.
The Abbies were made up players from PEI, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland-Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. NHL star Al MacAdam’s son John was a member of the team. They also had some tough characters including Randy Taylor (80 PIM), Brad Rice (345 PIM), Big Ben Metzger (167 PIM), David Ambler (182 PIM), Phil Skeffington (120 PIM) and Nick McGowan (117 PIM). That’s five players over 100 minutes in the penalty box. They also had some speed and finesse with guys, Mike Kennedy, and Chris Tellum. Russian Anton Mikhailov was part of the Abbies “Four Horsemen” on defense along with Pat Sellar, Rice and Metzger. Ben Vos was the backup goalie who was 7-0 during the campaign. Ryan Larter, the third goalie went 3-0.
The Abbies also had a hard working training staff that took care of the bumps and bruises headed by Kent MacKinnnon, Rick Gaudet and Andrew “Spider” MacNeil (now the veteran trainer of the Charlottetown Islanders/PEI Rocket in Quebec Major Junior).
Things went nearly perfectly for Charlottetown including the record 33 game win streak. This team was set for the playoffs by the spring.
1998-99 Charlottetown Moosehead/A&S Scrap Metal Abbies
Atlantic & Eastern Canadian Jr. A Champions
The entire Kennedy clan headed the coaching staff - Forbie as the head coach and assistants, brother Jamie and son Mike. All three with a passion for winning and they expected their players to have the same fire inside them. Jamie was a former high scoring minor pro and top rated referee as well as head coach. Mike was a former standout Major Junior player in Montreal who also played on the Islanders Hardy Cup teams and was a long-time assistant coach with his dad. He was also a Charlottetown Police officer. Forbie, an 11 year NHL vet who turned to coaching in the 70’s did not like the word “lose” and once said, “Show me one good thing about losing and I’ll accept it.” The senior Kennedy always expected all of his troops would give it their all and play hard every minute of every shift but he was also fair and thought much of players (if there was a good cop, bad cop scenario, then Jamie and Mike were called in to soothe the situation on some nights). Forbie had gone 27 years between championships with his last being in 1972 with the Summerside Crystals Juniors, so this was going to a special year for him. Kennedy had grown to be one of the main characters in PEI hockey – some hated him but most respected and loved him. He baited referees, criticized their job on some nights, and likely set and still holds the record for being the most suspended coach in Island hockey history. But he knew his stuff and how to get the most from his players. He loved the grinder type – which was his style in the pros. Forbes was a tough little Irishman who was born in Dorchester, New Brunswick but grew up in O’Leary and later moved to Charlottetown. He was heralded in Boston where he played for the Bruins (who wouldn’t be a fan favourite in The Garden with the name Kennedy?) and loved in most other cities where he played. A former standout amateur ball player in the 50’s, he became a close friend of Red Sox greats Bill Monbouquette and Johnny Pesky. He was a scrapper from the start and once after wild on ice melee stated, “A good brawl clears the air.” Forbie was also a good quote and the media loved him, maybe sometimes too much which led to a few suspensions with remarks about the officiating or even league officials on given night. His style may not have pleased everyone including other coaches, players and fans but he got the job done and lived up to the description of being “colourful”.
1998-99 was likely his best year as a coach. Forbie had coached in the minor pros and had a long career behind the bench with junior teams in Summerside, Tignish and Charlottetown. Danny Redmond who played for him in Tignish with the West Prince Bluefins remembers one night in the dressing room after a particular rough period where Forbie hollered at his players to pick it up and play like the game meant something. Redmond recalls the fuming Kennedy picked up a stick and ripping the head of the head of the team’s mascot, a giant Bluefin tuna, right off a poster on the wall as the players left the dressing room to start the next period.
What is not often talked about but should be noted is that Forbes Kennedy has always had a heart of gold. If he heard about some kid who wanted to play hockey but his family couldn’t afford a pair of skates he would pay for the skates so the youngster could play. He made a close friend in Paul Hennessey, a hockey fan with cerebral palsy who Forbie took under his wing and got him tickets for games and even had him drive around in a parks and recreation truck when Forbie worked for the City in the summer. His granddaughter Stephanie was also among his greatest fans. He would take her to games when she was just three. Forbie has also done the same for his great grandsons. He may be the most important man ever connected with PEI hockey for his dedication not only to the game but the people including players who have taken part in the national passion.
Both the new champions and Antigonish were in the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian Finals that would also include Hawkesbury, Ontario from Ottawa region and Valleyfield, Quebec and hosted in Charlottetown.
The Abbies shut out the Hawkesbury Hawks, 2-0 in the final on April 25th to advance to the Royal Bank Cup national tournament. Charlottetown won all four of its games in the tourney and had seven straight wins heading to the nationals in Yorkton, Saskatchewan.
Again over 3,500 fans were at the Civic Centre for the finale. Randy Taylor put the Abbies up 1-0 in the first and Ryan Maxwell added the second goal early in the third. Mark Cairns made 37 saves and was aided by a stellar defense in front of him that allowed only a few rebounds and cleared the puck constantly throughout the sudden death contest. Charlottetown added Eastern Canadian Champions to their growing list of banners in a banner season.
The Fred Page Cup
Charlottetown Abbies - 1999 Royal Bank Cup
The Abbies had little trouble in eliminating the Amherst Ramblers in four straight games in the Meek Division semi-final and then taking care of the Moncton Beavers in five games. Forward Mike White led the Abbies in the opening series with 7 goal, 10 assists and 17 points. Antigionish had a tougher time reaching the league finals needing five games to eliminate Truro in the Bent Division semi-finals and Halifax in a series that went the distance in seven games in the finals. The Abbies had won all four regular season match-ups with the Bulldogs but the Maritime finals would be a much different story.
The Bulldogs were led by forward Michael Stalk who had 24 goals, 42 assists and 66 points during the season. Antigonish won the opener 7-6 in overtime at the Civic Centre. The Bulldogs shocked the Abbies again in Game 2 back home with an 8-3 thumping. The Abbies cut the lead to 2-1 as they edged the Bulldogs, 8-3 in the third game but fell behind 3-1 in the series losing 8-4 just two nights later. Charlottetown would not lose another game again in the series that went back and forth across the Confederation Bridge for 12 days. The Abbies won 6-2 in the fifth contest and 3-1 in brawl filled sixth game to force it to seven.
A capacity crowd of 3,500 witnessed the deciding game won by the Abbies in a nail biter. Charlottetown built up a comfortable 3-0 lead in the first period as Pat Yetman scored two goals and defenseman Brad Simms connected on the power play. The Bulldogs scratched away at the lead and had goals netted by Ryan Flemming and Ricky Bowie in the second. Antigonish pressed for the equalizer in the third only to be denied by Abbies goalie Mark Cairns who made 32 saves.
Maritime Jr. League playoff MVP Ryan Maxwell had two assists. The Abbies were Maritime Jr. League champs for the first time in their history. The top goal scorer for the Abbies in the series was Yetman with six tallies.
Head Coach Forbes Kennedy admitted it was far from easy, “It was a pressure cooker but the kids came through. They knew they had to do it. We can yell and scream but they had to do it themselves. And I’ll tell you that was a hell of hockey team we played. Antigonish didn’t quit.” It was Forbie’s first Maritime Junior League championship as well. Fitting they won the Callaghan Cup named after a great Island hockey builder J. Pius Callaghan who suspended Forbes on occasion as President of the Maritime Hockey Association.
Mike White summed up the comeback performance the best, “Every time we had our backs to the wall we came out with a victory. That shows you the character this team established.” The Abbies played in three straight elimination games and in the end it was the Bulldogs who were left eliminated at least for this round. Both teams would play another day.
Owner Al Stewart - A devoted hockey man
A tough seven game final vs. Antigonish