Through the 1980-81, ’81-82, ’82-83, ’83-84 and ’84-85 regular seasons, the Soo Greyhounds reeled off respective records of 47-19-2, 40-25-3, 48-21-1, 38-24-4 and 54-11-1 that culminated in the franchise’s first-ever Ontario Hockey League playoff championship and Memorial Cup berth. But the remainder of the 1980s were not as kind to the Greyhounds, though there were some memorable players and moments.
The downslide began in the 1985-1986 season. Fresh off of the OHL championship season of ’84-85, both general manager Sam McMaster and Terry Crisp departed the Soo for the professional hockey ranks. And a number of key players also graduated to the pros.
And in what was clearly a rebuild, Greyhound ownership opted to replace the wildly successful McMaster-Crisp duo with one man in the dual role of general manager and coach. Not only was Don MacAdam entrusted with replacing both McMaster and Crisp — who as a duo over five years posted an amazing regular season record of 227-100-11 — but the new guy had never coached or managed at the major junior level.
So, in reality, ownership put too much on the plate of MacAdam, who had left his coaching position at the University of New Brunswick to head to the Soo and take over from McMaster and Crisp. Not only was MacAdam thrust in an unenviable situation in replacing McMaster and Crisp but he also inherited a depleted roster from the ’84-85 championship season.
And while MacAdam did take on a few high end returning players, his attention to dry land training did not go over all that well with many of the veterans. MacAdam was ahead of his time as a physical fitness commander and as the season went on, he shipped out several key returnees such as high scoring forwards Graeme Bonar, Derek King and Brit Peer and hard rock defenseman Ken Sabourin.
The Hounds of ’85-86 finished last overall in the OHL standings with an abysmal record of 15-48-3. As for MacAdam, he left the Hounds after that season to move up to the National Hockey League as an assistant coach under Jacques Demers with the Detroit Red Wings.
With MacAdam gone, the Greyhounds turned to OHL rival London and lured Don Boyd away from the Knights to be their new general manager and coach. Boyd had built a decent reputation over a few seasons on the Knight shift in London and seemed like a safe, solid hire by the Greyhounds.
With veteran players having blossomed under MacAdam and Crisp, Boyd had the makings of a good Greyhound team for the ’86-87 season. Indeed, the productive likes of forwards Paul Beraldo, Mike Oliverio, Steve Hollett, Tyler Larter, Dan Currie, Brad Aitken, Mike Glover and Troy Mallette, defensemen Rob Zettler, Steve Bisson, Bobby Jones, Peter Fiorentino, Mark Haarman, Brian Hoard and Bobby Babcock and goalie Shawn Simpson either were already or would become NHL draft picks.
But after a blazing start under Boyd, the Greyhounds tapered off, finished with a record of 31-31-4 and were blown out in four straight games by the Windsor Spitfires in the first round of the playoffs. Still, a banner season was projected for Boyd’s second term, the ’87-88 campaign.
Again, the Greyhounds got off to a good start in ’87-88. But the momentum faded and a team that was supposed to contend for a divisional title finished just below the .500 mark with a record of 32-33-1.
The Hounds, though, were out try to make amends in the first round of the playoffs against Boyd’s former London team. With firepower aplenty led by Currie, Larter, Glover, Oliverio and overage acquisition Brad Stepan — the five forwards combined for a whopping 206 regular season goals — the Hounds seemed poised to knock off coach Wayne Maxner and the Knights.
But in a thrilling series that featured Boyd and Maxner jawing at one another through stories in both the Sault This Week and Sault Star, the Knights prevailed in six games in a see saw set. A difference proved to be three games that went to overtime — with London winning all three by identical 5-4 scores.
In the end, London got better goaltending from rookie David Schill than the Soo got from aforementioned veteran Shawn Simpson. Simpson was unable to solve London sniper Ron Goodall, who scored nine goals in the six game series.
Maxner, as coach of the Knights, was able to get maximum mileage out of his London crew which besides Goodall, featured veteran skaters such as forwards Tim Taylor, Trevor Dam, Donnie Martin, Dennis McEwen and Greg Hankkio and defensemen Brad Schlegel, Rick Corriveau, Paul Holden and Jim Sprott. Another London advantage was Maxner’s utilization of the all rookie “Maritime Line” of Doug Synishin, Danny Leblanc and Steve Martell, who consistently shut down the Soo’s top scorers in a determined display of defensive hockey.
The loss loomed as a downfall in Boyd’s coaching career with the Greyhounds. He did return for the ’88-89 season but with the team faltering midway through the campaign, Boyd was fired and replaced by his assistant coach, Ted Nolan.
The Hounds would miss the playoffs that ’88-89 season with a record of 21-43-2. And under Nolan, the Hounds would miss out again in ’89-90 and finish in last place overall with a record of 18-42-6.
But under Nolan and general manager Sherry Bassin, the Greyhounds would do a dramatic turnaround in 1990-1991 and begin a string of championship seasons that included three straight trips to the Memorial Cup tournament. Which, to be sure, is a story for another chapter of Greyhound hockey history.