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Memories and emotion from ice level after the Hamilton Bulldogs won the OHL Championship:

Where do all those lids go?

When Hamilton Bulldog Avery Hayes scored into an empty net for his third goal of Wednesday night’s 6-1 OHL title-clinching victory over Windsor, the massive home crowd showered the ice with caps, a long-standing hockey tradition when a player scores a hat-trick. According to Bulldogs’ spokesperson Peggy Chapman, the hats are collected and given to the Hamilton Bulldogs Foundation which in turn distributes them to various agencies and charities it works with.

Artem Grushnikov, right, jokingly tries on a hat thrown onto the ice after Avery Hayes, left, scored his hattrick.
Artem Grushnikov, right, jokingly tries on a hat thrown onto the ice after Avery Hayes, left, scored his hattrick.John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator

Father, son moment

A very touching scene near centre ice in the mob scene after the Bulldogs won Wednesday night: team president and GM Steve Staios and his son Nathan Staios, the league’s most outstanding defenceman holding each other in a long embrace. Steve Staios had brought Nathan to Hamilton in a trade in August 2019 so the smooth-skating savvy defencemen could add some offence and experience to a young Bulldog rearguard. He’d spent his first two seasons in Windsor.

“We did a good job of separating father and son from general manager and player,” Steve Staios said. “But a moment like this is a father-son moment I’ll remember forever.”

Nathan Staios holds up the J. Ross Robertson Cup as fans celebrate after Hamilton defeated the Windsor Spitfires.
Nathan Staios holds up the J. Ross Robertson Cup as fans celebrate after Hamilton defeated the Windsor Spitfires.John Rennison

Husky development

Bulldogs coach Jay McKee calls forward Patrick Thomas one of the most underrated players in the OHL and praises his high hockey IQ. He was the youngest Bulldog on the ice Wednesday and much of the calendar year has been on a line with superstar Mason McTavish, who requested they play together. At 17, he’s still got at least two years of Bulldog eligibility left.

“Obviously playing in all these high-level games, it rushes my development as a player,” Thomas says.

He grew up in Oakville but played his minor hockey for the Hamilton Huskies.

“My dad (Derek) grew up in Hamilton,” said Thomas who made a brilliant pass to McTavish for Wednesday’s first goal. “And I had some friends I played spring hockey with who were Huskies, so I played for them too. It’s a great organization.”

The record-breaking crowd at Game 7 of the OHL final between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Windsor Spitfires in Hamilton on June 15. Hamilton won 6-1.
The record-breaking crowd at Game 7 of the OHL final between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Windsor Spitfires in Hamilton on June 15. Hamilton won 6-1.OHL Images

‘Great places, ever’

Well-travelled Mason McTavish played for six different teams this season, including Canada’s Olympic and world junior teams and says “I never unpacked my suitcases. But this felt like home. Hamilton is one of the great places, ever, to play junior hockey. I’m super fortunate and it’s hard to put into words what winning this means. It’s something you dream about, to say you’re OHL champions.”

Avery Hayes's shot crosses the goal line for his hattrick that prompted a deluge of hats flying onto the ice.
Avery Hayes’s shot crosses the goal line for his hattrick that prompted a deluge of hats flying onto the ice.John Rennison

He has now

Here’s Jan Mysak, who comes from Litvinov, Czechia, and has been a solid-checking point-per-game player since arriving in 2020.

“I never won anything big in my life so this is huge for me and for my family who sacrificed a lot to let me come here and make a dream come true. Great team, great owner, great GM, great coaching staff.”

Officials try to separate Bulldog Avery Hayes and Spitfire Michael Renwick in a scrum that developed immediately after Avery's goal gave Hamilton a 2-0 lead.
Officials try to separate Bulldog Avery Hayes and Spitfire Michael Renwick in a scrum that developed immediately after Avery’s goal gave Hamilton a 2-0 lead.John Rennison

Lots of support

Hamilton native Mark Duarte honed his craft with the Kilty B’s and has built himself into an indispensable part of the Bulldog forward unit.

“I had so many friends and family at this game who have supported me since I was young,” he said after Game 7. “I’ve been lucky enough to have played in Hamilton through minor till now and get to be part of this special group of guys. It’s such an unbelievable feeling and I can’t wait for the Memorial Cup.”

Hamilton Bulldog Mark Duarte keeps his eye on the puck after he was checked into the Windsor net.
Hamilton Bulldog Mark Duarte keeps his eye on the puck after he was checked into the Windsor net.John Rennison

Didn’t miss the big one

Ryan Winterton who missed the first three months of the season with an injury, then helped fuel the Bulldogs’ great second half with 46 points in 37 regular-season games and another 19 in the playoffs, missed Game 6 in Windsor because of a dislocated shoulder injury suffered celebrating with teammates after he scored the first goal in Game 5’s win.

“I had to be out the last game after my goal and it was pretty embarrassing,” said Winterton, who made a huge difference to the forward unit in Game 7, and helped create the opening goal. “So it was really good to back for this win.”

Spitfire Ethan Miedema sweeps around the net behind Bulldog goalie Marco Costantini in the second period.
Spitfire Ethan Miedema sweeps around the net behind Bulldog goalie Marco Costantini in the second period.John Rennison

Memorial reunion

The field at next week’s Memorial Cup in Saint John, NB will be reminiscent of the national tournament 10 years ago in Shawinigan. The three teams awaiting the Bulldogs — Edmonton Oil Kings, Shawinigan Cataractes and Saint John Sea Dogs — were all in that Memorial Cup. The OHL was represented that year by Max Domi and his London Knights who lost to the host Cataractes in overtime in the final game. Shawinigan got in as host and Saint John as QMJHL champs, the reverse of this year. And this year, Hamilton, not London, represents the OHL. Among the future NHLers who played in 2012 were Tristan Jarry and Curtis Lazar (Edmonton); Domi, Josh Anderson, Bo Horvat and Vladimir Namestnikov (London); Freddy Gaudreau and Michael Bournival (Shawinigan) and Jonathan Huberdeau, Charlie Coyle and Nathan Beaulieu (Saint John).

Marco Costantini deflects a shot after putting Spitfire Daniil Sobolev on the ice to clear his view of it.
Marco Costantini deflects a shot after putting Spitfire Daniil Sobolev on the ice to clear his view of it.John Rennison

Logan’s run

The Bulldogs’ Logan Morrison’s 39 points were good for second in the OHL playoffs behind Windsor’s Wyatt Johnston’s 41 points. Avery Hayes was third at 34 points and Mason McTavish fifth with 29. The leading playoff point scorers for the other three Memorial Cup finalists are:

Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan, 25 points (2nd QMJHL); Xavier Bourgault Shawinigan, 22 points, (4th); Dylan Guenther, Edmonton, 21 points (7th WHL), Carter Souch, Edmonton, 21 points, (7th WHL) Jakub Demek, Edmonton, 17 points (19th WHL).

Saint John played only five playoff games and were led by Raivis Kristians Ansons’ five points and four apiece from Riley Brezeau and William Dufour.

Bulldog Jorian Donovan celebrates with a few of his friends.
Bulldog Jorian Donovan celebrates with a few of his friends.John Rennison

Where were you in ’62?

When the Bulldogs meet the Oil Kings Thursday in Saint John it will be the first time a team from Hamilton has played a Memorial Cup game against a team from Edmonton since the Hamilton Red Wings beat the old Oil Kings four games to one in 1962, when the national tournament was a two-team best-of-seven affair. Both were then farm teams of the Detroit Red Wings and the series was played at the Hamilton Forum and in Guelph and Kitchener.

Hamilton Bulldog Jan Mysak celebrates his key goal in the third period.
Hamilton Bulldog Jan Mysak celebrates his key goal in the third period.John Rennison

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