Savard remembers Memorial wins

Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:14 AM ET

MISSISSAUGA — Robert Savard, some 31 years later, still can’t fathom how the ice became so clear of obstacles.


It was the 1980 Memorial Cup, and Savard, a defenceman with the Cornwall Royals, gained control of the puck in overtime of the championship game against the Peterborough Petes. As Savard, who didn’t score more than eight goals in a major junior season, broke up the ice, players took their checks.


“Suddenly there was this big window of opportunity,” Savard said on Saturday on the phone from his home in Timmins. “The ice just opened up in front of me. And I don’t think anyone expected me to shoot. But I did.”


And Savard scored, giving the Royals the Memorial Cup. That was Savard’s best Cup memory. But he was not done with what many hockey people call the hardest trophy to win in sports. Savard lifted the Cup again the following spring, and again in 1982 with the Kitchener Rangers.


No player other than Savard has won the Cup in three consecutive years. Just three other players — Darcy Tucker, Tyson Nash and Ryan Huska with the Kamloops Blazers — have three Cup rings tucked away in their sock drawers.


On Sunday night at the Hershey Centre, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors forward Justin Shugg will have a shot at nudging Savard’s name further down the same sentence in the Memorial Cup record book. In the past two springs, Shugg lifted the Cup as a member of the Windsor Spitfires.


Shugg and the Majors will take on the Saint John Sea Dogs in the 2011 Memorial Cup final.


“I’ve never met (Savard), but I don’t think I want to jinx it just yet,” Shugg said on Saturday morning. “But if it happens that I do win it again, I guess we can set up a little date.”


Savard has no problem if gets some company. In fact, he has wondered for years if he ever would.
“I’m surprised it has gone on this long,” Savard said. “I would love to have someone there with me, and I hope that Justin gets that opportunity. It would be an honour to share it.


“People think it’s easy to win, and that politics might get you there, but it’s really all about heart and determination.”


Where Shugg is a Carolina Hurricanes prospect and could have a career in the National Hockey League, Savard’s playing days ended not long after his third win. A waiver pickup by the storied Kitchener club, Savard was part of a team that included Brian Bellows, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens.


But after Savard spent a season with Saint Mary’s University, his desire to become an electrician led to a change in his life. A native of Azilda, Ont., Savard moved to Timmins and eventually got a job with Ontario Hydro, now known as Hydro One.


The 50-year-old Savard will be in Sudbury for work on Sunday. But he will find a television so he can watch Shugg chase his triple dream.


Savard doesn’t sit around and wonder what could have been considering his hockey career didn’t extend much past the junior level. It’s somewhat ironic that the only person to win the Memorial Cup in three consecutive years didn’t go on to further hockey acclaim.


“The NHL was the big thing, of course, but my journey took me on a different path,” Savard said. “I more or less walked away. I don’t have any regrets about it. I had a good career outside of hockey.”
Savard doesn’t talk much about his junior hockey glory. He was accommodating and gracious when contacted out of the blue by a reporter, but is not in the habit of flashing his rings, though he did bring them out occasionally when he coached a triple-A midget team in Timmins.


“I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole thing,” Savard said. “I’m not someone who really talks about it. But 30 years later, you realize how tough it is to do it.”


Shugg knows too.


“You see guys come in and out of this league and they never get a chance,” Shugg said. “I’ve soaked every minute in.”


terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca
twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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