It is an iconic Ontario Hockey League franchise that has been more than 45 years in the making. But since entering the OHL along with their since-more-successful, northern neighbour Soo Greyhounds in 1972, the Sudbury Wolves have never won a league championship and have never participated in the Memorial Cup tournament.
Recent history shows Sudbury having missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, including the 2017-2018 term in which the Wolves finished in last place in the Eastern Conference — and last overall in the 20-team OHL — with a mere 43 points from a record of 17-42-9.
There is a family side ownership to the Wolves that is part of their legendary status even though an OHL championship has eluded Sudbury.
In reality, there have been only four ownership groups — all local residents — at the helm of the Wolves since they first skated in the OHL in 1972.
Bud Burke was the first owner of the Wolves in 1972 followed by Joe Drago and partners in 1980 before the Burgess family took over and held stake for 30 years before selling off to current operator Dario Zulich in 2016.
Who doesn’t want the Sudbury Wolves to succeed?
Well, there may be some who don’t — which is a fact of sporting life — but really, this is a lovable, likeable franchise that, try as it might, has yet to hold an OHL championship parade.
What about this season?
While there will not likely be any honking of championship horns along the historic Sudbury streets of Elgin, Elm, Paris et al next spring, there could be some long-awaited excitement that is about to burst forth in the northern Ontario nickel capital.
Two forward lines don’t make a team. But two forward lines could well define the Wolves of 2018-2019.
There is a potential impact trio of overage wingers Darian Pilon and Drake Pilon — twin brothers from down the two-lane Highway 17 at Sault Ste. Marie — and centre Blake Murray, who led the Wolves in scoring in 2017-2018 as a 16-year old rookie.
Then there is another would-be hot line of 19-year old wingers David Levin and Macauley Carson and rookie centre Quinton Byfield, who Sudbury selected with the first overall pick of the 2018 OHL draft as the prize for having the worst record in the OHL over the course of the 2017-2018 campaign.
For example, the highly-touted Byfield likes his linemates.
“We all sort of know our roles on the line,” Byfield told Postmedia. “It’s just a great combo.”
And second-year Wolves head coach Cory Stillman agrees.
“When you look at that line, you have a guy in Carson who can drive the net, can go get pucks and is big and he can get the puck to Byfield, who skates extremely well, who plays with pace, and you have Levin, who might end up becoming the goal-scorer on that line, because he’s got a great shot,” Stillman relayed.
Ah, the potential in Wolves country.
Ah, the feel good story that it will be if Sudbury can skate to any sort of success in 2018-2019.
Ah, come on Wolves.