Ottawa no stranger to Memorial Cup

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

No matter what the Ottawa 67's put on the ice, you can't count them out, simply because of who they have behind their bench.

Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Kilrea, the winningest coach in Canadian Hockey League history, has been involved in the puck-chasing business since the days of Eddie Shore's old-time hockey.

The 70-year-old moved into his office at Ottawa's Civic Centre in 1974-75 and there is nothing that can happen on a sheet of ice that "Killer" hasn't already seen a dozen times.

Ottawa's success with Kilrea is staggering. In his 30 years as skipper, the team has finished below .500 just three times. In the boom-and-bust cycles of junior hockey, that's a rock-solid model of consistency and a big reason the 67's are regarded as one of the top franchises in the CHL.

Ottawa is always a threat and this season is the perfect example. The 67's finished sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 34-26-7-1 record, then bumped off Barrie, Sudbury and Peterborough, a series win that earned them a fifth trip to the Memorial Cup tournament, along with host and OHL winners London.

London beat Ottawa 4-1 in the OHL final, but the 67's win was a 6-3 game at the John Labatt Centre. One more win there this week is all it will take to do serious damage to the Knights' dream season.

The 67's have won the Cup twice, most recently in 1999 with four straight victories, ending with a 7-6 overtime win against the Calgary Hitmen.

They also won the crown in 1984 in Kitchener, fighting back from a 7-2 round-robin loss to the Rangers to win the final by the same score against the host team.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Gary Roberts played for the 1984 team and the '99 squad included Strathroy's Brian Campbell, now a Buffalo Sabres defenceman, and London-born goalie Seamus Kotyk.

Ottawa has made two other appearances at the Cup tourney since 1972. In 2001 at Regina, the 67's opened the proceedings with a 5-2 win over the host Pats, but then lost three straight, including a 5-0 defeat to Regina in the tie-breaker game.

In 1977 at Vancouver, the 67's played three straight one-goal games against the New Westminster Bruins, falling in the opener 7-6, winning the second tilt 4-3 in overtime and then losing the final 6-5.

Known by the unique design of their barber-pole uniforms, the roots of the 67's franchise is straightforward enough. With the Civic Centre being built as one of Ottawa's centennial projects in 1967, Bytown needed a team for its rink and the Ontario Hockey Association Major Junior A Series was interested in expanding to the city where Canadians' tax dollars flow.

Ottawa was awarded a franchise Feb. 16, 1967, and the rights to the team were won by a group of businesspeople, including Howard Darwin. Shortly after, Darwin was also part of a consortium that would purchase the London Nationals franchise and turn it into the Knights.

Darwin, who quickly became principal owner of the Knights, remained head of both franchises until 1986, when the Ontario Hockey League passed a rule that a person could be involved in only one of its teams because of conflict of interest.

Darwin decided to keep Ottawa and sold the Knights for $1 under the stipulation the team was to remain in London. He ran Ottawa with partner Earl Montagano until 1998, when they sold the team to Jeff Hunt.

Ottawa's first head coach was Barrie's Bill Long, who would later coach the Knights. The 67's first in a long history of victories was against the Nationals, 2-1 in London.

In that first season of growing pains, Ottawa's record was 6-45-3. Under Kilrea, they would never have a season that bad again.

This year's 67's lineup features Brad Staubitz, a native of Bright's Grove, and Julian Talbot, who started his junior career with the Strathroy Rockets.

Ottawa's most timely goal scorer is Mark Mancari, a 19-year-old Londoner who parks his six-foot-three, 225-pound frame in front of the net and makes use of his soft touch around the goal. He had 36 regular-season goals and 14 more in 21 playoff games.

The 67's freely admit they are at the Cup largely thanks to the play of 19-year-old goaltender and Sudbury native Danny Battochio.

A walk-on in 2003, Battochio suffered seizures midway through that first season and was finally diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a weakening of blood vessels that left a blockage behind his eyes.

He underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season. But he fought back this year and grabbed the starting job.

OTTAWA 67'S

Home rink: Ottawa Civic Centre (9,832 capacity)

Colours: Red, white and black

Owner/governor: Jeff Hunt

GM/coach: Brian Kilrea; assistants: Bert O'Brien, Vince Malette

NHL draft picks: Bryan Bickell (Chicago), Mark Mancari (Buffalo), Jakub Petruzalek (New York Rangers), Lukas Kaspar (San Jose), Will Colbert (Ottawa)

Memorial Cup experience: Only the coach, Brian Kilrea, who is making his fifth appearance. There are no 67's players still around from the team that qualified for the 2001 tournament in Regina, although forward Julian Talbot would have heard a lot about it from brother Joe, who was Ottawa's leading scorer that year.


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