Preparations to host all-Ontarios well underway

One of the challenges facing members of the committee planning next year’s all-Ontario boys’ hockey tournament here is to not only run the event but to have it “etched in people’s minds,” according to co-convener Terry Ogden.
Things certainly are looking good so far. Issues are being dealt with, ideas are being relayed, regular meetings have been called, and volunteers are being assembled.
And presentations are being, well, presented.
“There are some things you can do early and there are some things you have to wait on,” noted Ogden, who was head coach of the Muskie teams that won all-Ontario gold in 1986 and ’89.
“Knowing two years ahead of time [Fort Frances landed OFSAA 2006 back in April, 2004] certainly has helped us and it makes it less hectic, but there are some things you have to wait on,” added Ogden, who is serving as co-convener along with Greg Ste. Croix.
Ogden said an array of issues facing the committee already have been dealt with or are being looked at. One of those items was the scheduling of games, with 16 to be played at the Emo Arena.
The committee also has decided the banquet will be held in Fort High’s large gym (which can seat about 450 people), with Ontario NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton being the guest speaker.
Hampton, a Muskie during the program’s “initial stages,” was not the committee’s immediate choice.
“We had done some searches on speakers, and its kind of like NHL contracts where some of them wanted a whole pile of money and were much more than what we thought they were worth,” said Ogden.
Some of the speakers looked at included Kelly Hrudey, Bryan Trottier, Ken Dryden, and Jim Kyte.
“So we thought why not celebrate our own?” said Ogden. “We’re very proud a former Muskie has gone on to a distinguished career in politics and why not honour our own people than shell out a whole bunch of money for an ex-athlete?”
So what was Hampton’s reaction when asked by the committee to be the banquet speaker?
“He was very honoured that we asked him,” noted Ogden. “Larry Patrick [a member of the organizing committee] was the one who contacted him, and Larry said that his words were, ‘I’m honoured and I’m humbled.’”
The next step looks to be approaching local businesses for support, which is expected to be vast and readily available for an event that already has started to create some buzz here.
Not just because of the fact the Muskies will have an automatic berth as the host team, but also from the black-and-gold’s impressive showing at this year’s all-Ontarios in Windsor in March.
“The excitement the team created at Windsor this year was a big boost for our committee—you can’t get better advertising from the excitement the team generated,” Ogden noted.
A few committee members also attended OFSAA to “take notes on what was going on at the coaches meeting and the banquet, and some of the other routines that happened at the games,” said Ogden.
“There are some things we’d like to change and there are some things we’d like to keep,” he noted.
There also are some things the committee hopes to re-live.
The last time Fort Frances hosted OFSAA in 1989, it created a tournament whose ending couldn’t have been scripted better by a Hollywood screen writer.
“Back in ’89, the rink was sold out and you couldn’t park the car within three blocks of the Memorial Arena,” Ogden recalled. “The whole town jumped on board.”
The Muskies won the tournament with 3,000 pairs of eyes glued on their every move during the gold-medal game against St. Jerome’s in the old Memorial Arena (now the ’52 Canadians Arena).
The committee hopes the story in ’06 will be similar to what Times editor Mike Behan, then the sports reporter, wrote after that dramatic Muskies’ win:
“April Fool’s night, 1989.
“A night never to be forgotten in Fort Frances history! A night about which everybody will say they were there when it happened.
“The night when the gold came to Memorial Arena!”