Habs throw Hunt a curve

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:25 PM ET

67's owner Jeff Hunt has almost accomplished it all in terms of the getting what he wants in junior hockey.

He bought the 67's in 1998 and transformed a moribund franchise into one of the most vibrant and successful in the entire Canadian Hockey League.

He promised to double attendance in his first season as owner, and did it.

Then he bid for the Memorial Cup, won the right to host it, and won the tournament, too.

No denying from here that Hunt has been nothing short of a phenomenal success since his entry into the world of junior hockey, yet he still has one item left on his "to do" list.

Twice he has bid to have the 67's and Ottawa host the world junior championship, but has never managed to land the event he considers the biggest in junior hockey.

LOST OUT TO HALIFAX

He joined forces with the Senators for the 2003 tournament, but lost to Halifax. Hunt also wanted the upcoming 2006 world juniors which were awarded to Vancouver, despite overwhelming support from Ottawa hockey fans.

More than 18,000 folks plunked down a $25 deposit for tickets, but got refunds after Hockey Canada went with Vancouver.

Not to be discouraged, Hunt will throw his hat into the ring for the 2009 tournament, the next one to be held in Canada.

Already, Ottawa faces a challenge.

Last week, Montreal Canadiens president Pierre Boivin unveiled a plan where the Habs, to celebrate the club's 100th anniversary in 2009, would bid to host the world juniors, the NHL draft, and the NHL all-star game that year.

Hunt has no interest in joining forces with Montreal for a joint bid, and told the Sun he doesn't see why the 100th anniversary of a professional sports team should be a factor in the selection of a host city for the world junior championship.

"Montreal is obviously a great hockey town, but what's going to hurt their bid is that it hasn't supported junior hockey," said Hunt.

Various major junior franchises have been based in Montreal and its suburbs over the years, but now there are none within an hour's drive of downtown.

"I don't think you can just cherry pick the biggest event in junior hockey and not support it. I don't think that's fair," said Hunt.

Should be interesting when the cities line up to bid in the near future.

ADD AND SUBTRACT: The Windsor Spitfires are in a bind regarding high-scoring C Steve Downie on the sidelines after an altercation with rookie Akim Aliu. Downie, a Philadelphia first-round pick, used his stick to hit Aliu in the mouth, and received a team-imposed five-game suspension. He has gone home and has requested a trade, and the Spitfires are shopping around looking for what they can get for a potential 100-point player. The 67's are interested, and could use another high-scoring centre. If they get Downie, the team would be stacked in the middle, with overage Julian Talbot and rookie Logan Couture already at centre. Downie's agent is Bobby Orr, who also represents 67's D Elgin Reid, one of the club's leaders. Orr likes 67's coach Brian Kilrea and wouldn't mind seeing Downie get a new lease on life in Ottawa. Downie scored 21 goals and had 73 points last year in Windsor. Working in Ottawa's favour is the fact the Spitfires don't want to trade Downie to a team in their own conference.

ANOTHER LABRECQUE IN THE WALL: The Olympiques won the first shootout in franchise history on Thursday at the Guertin, when overager Guillaume Labrecque was the only shooter of five to score when players went 1-on-1 against the goalies. Gatineau G David Tremblay stood tall, stopping the three shots he faced, including a pair from ex-Olympiques, Olivier Labelle and Petr Pohl during a win over Acadie-Bathurst. The 'Piques host Chicoutimi this afternoon at 4 and get a few days off before returning to action at home Friday against Rouyn-Noranda.

ODDS AND ENDS: This is strange. One week ago, Orleans native and Kingston G Danny Taylor said he got psyched for a game at the Civic Centre against the 67's because he saw a bunch of kids in the stands wearing Cumberland Barons jerseys, his minor hockey team. Taylor was outstanding during a 2-1 Kingston win. Turns out the team wearing those jerseys was an atom team that includes Jay Hunt, son of 67's owner Jeff ... Big match in the CJHL tonight in Pembroke, where the Lumber Kings host defending champion Hawkesbury.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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