It was 35 years ago this weekend that the Guelph Platers won the coveted Memorial Cup championship as the best team in Canadian major junior hockey.
Suffice to say that the Platers took the Ontario Hockey League by surprise during the 1985-1986 season.
The Platers had missed the playoffs in each of their first three seasons in the OHL. Starting out as an expansion team in 1982, the Platers posted successive records of 7-63-0, 20-46-4 and 21-40-5.
But relative unknown Jacques Martin would arrive in Guelph as the Platers new head coach for the 1985-1986 OHL season — and stunning glory would follow.
To be sure, Guelph shocked the major junior hockey world when the Platers completed a Cinderella season in Portland, Oregon by defeating the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League in the 1986 Memorial Cup championship game.
It was a best-ever season for the Platers, who would play in Guelph until 1989 before relocating to Owen Sound. The Platers would remain under the ownership of founder and patriarch Joe Z. Holody until 2000 when the franchise would be sold and re-named the Owen Sound Attack.
But back to that memorable 1985-1986 season of the OHL and Memorial Cup champion Guelph Platers under general manager Rob Holody and aforementioned head coach Jacques Martin.
The Platers rang up 84 points from a regular season record of 41-23-2 record and finished in second place in the OHL’s Emms Division.
Come the playoffs, the Platers swept the Sudbury Wolves in the quarter finals. Then, in the Emms Division semi-finals in which Guelph, the Windsor Spitfires and North Bay Centennials faced off in a round-robin format, the Platers posted a perfect 4-0 record. In the Emms Divisional finals, the Platers upended Windsor in six games to advance to the OHL championship series. Guelph then defeated the Leyden Division champion Belleville Bulls in six games to win the OHL crown and advance to the Memorial Cup tournament.
Keys to the Platers success were workhorse overage goalie Steve Guenette, high scoring defenseman Marc Tournier, points leader Lonnie Loach and future National Hockey League mainstay forward Gary Roberts, who was acquired in a mid season trade with the Ottawa 67’s.
And leading the way behind the bench was aforementioned head coach Jacques Martin, who would leave Guelph after only one season and embark on an NHL coaching career that is now at 35 years and counting.
The ’86 Memorial Cup champion Platers also had a northeastern Ontario connection with the aforementioned Lonnie Loach hailing from New Liskeard and Marc Tournier being a Sault Ste. Marie boy. Tournier had been acquired the season before from his hometown Soo Greyhounds in a trade for goalie Scott Mosey.
And notably, former Platers championship forward Tom Nickolau is now the president and head coach of the Cochrane Crunch of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.