Moose Jaw Warriors head coach played at 1979 national championship
Even after 35 years, a loss still stings.
Mike Stothers, head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors talks to a referee during game action this season at Mosaic Place. Stothers was an alumnus of the Air Canada Cup, now called the Telus Cup. Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Mike Stothers, head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors, remembers the brutal reality of losing at the national level.
It was 1979 and the St. Michael’s College Buzzers were playing in the final game of the Air Canada Cup in Winnipeg, MB against Couillard de St-Foy, which they lost 9-7 in overtime.
“I remember the disappointment of not winning … coming so close and not winning,” said Stothers, reminiscing about the tournament. “We scored seven goals and we didn’t win. You should win a game when you score seven goals.”
Stothers is an alumnus of the Buzzers team, but had to Google the tournament when asked about the experience, as the details were a bit fuzzy now.
“I remember the road to get there, just to get out of Ontario and represent in Winnipeg,” said Stothers.
The Air Canada Cup is now known as the Telus Cup, which will be held in Moose Jaw beginning Monday.
Stothers was a second year midget when he played in the tournament. He and some of his teammates had to make a decision to either play Junior B at the college or stay for a second year of midget.
“Knowing that we had a chance to do something special that year, the nucleus of us stayed and played our second year of midget, which was our draft year into junior,” said Stothers.
The road to get out of the Ontario region was difficult for the Buzzers.
“Things just fell into place for us. It was a long road. It was hard. It is tough just getting out of the metropolitan Toronto area because of the big talent pool,” stated Stothers. “We had to play someone from Northern Ontario who was real good too. It was just a battle. You have to have some talent and some luck and stay healthy.”
The team was able to stay reasonably healthy throughout the tournament, but was missing some key players in the final game.
“My defence partner got an infection from his contacts, so he couldn’t wear his contacts, he had to wear glasses,” said Stothers. “He eyes were burning and he was in misery, but he played.”
Ste-Foy never lost a game and were quite offensive throughout the six day tournament. In the final game, Quebec had a 5-3 lead and struck for two more in the opening minute of the third period. However, Ontario came back to score four straight goals to tie the game. Guy Fournier scored twice in the 10-minute overtime period to give Ste-Foy the title.
“I know we beat Notre Dame then we lost to stinking Ste-Foy,” said Stothers. “I can’t even remember anybody who was on that team went on to play pro.
Not only was the national tournament exciting and new for the then 17-year-old Stothers, but there were other new experiences as well.
“It might have been the few times that I was billeted. That was a new experience. In Toronto, you lived at home and you just drove to your games,” explained Stothers. “Just the flight back from Winnipeg, there were people at the airport waiting for us in Toronto. There wasn’t many, but it was pretty cool.”
His mother came with him, but his father was stuck in Ontario as he on jury duty.
“They were sequestered in the hotel and he actually made all the other jurors watch the game on TV back home,” said Stothers. “It was weird, but so cool. There were so many things that were so awesome about it.”
Even after playing in the National Hockey League, coaching in the Ontario Hockey League, the American Hockey League and now the Western Hockey League, Stothers still has great memories of his time at the Air Canada Cup.
“Whether you win or lose or go on to play pro, I just think it is a great experience that I can’t do it justice. You have to live it. You have to play it. You have to be a part of it,” stated Stothers. “This is just another life skill and the camaraderie that they will have will last them a lifetime … they will never forget it.”
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