A decade before the Soo Greyhounds would have Ontario Hockey League and Memorial Cup championship success with Ted Nolan as coach and Sherry Bassin as general manager, the Red and White would power its way to a franchise record 227 victories over a five year, regular season span.
Led by the dynamic duo of general manager Sam McMaster and coach Terry Crisp, the Greyhounds would amass an amazing regular season record of 227-100-11 between 1980 and 1985.
And unlike Nolan and Bassin who had numerous assistants in place, McMaster and Crisp were solo acts as manager and coach, respectively.
To this day, McMaster and Crisp remain the most prolific GM and coach tandem in a Greyhound regular season OHL history that began in 1972.
For Crisp, he had a rocky start as coach of the Greyhounds. Arriving the year before McMaster, which was the 1979-1980 season, the Crisp coached Greyhounds were a disaster, missing the OHL playoffs with a record of 22-45-1.
But McMaster would take over from original franchise GM Angelo Bumbacco to begin the 1980-1981 campaign. And with McMaster as GM and Crisp as coach, the Greyhounds would be an absolute OHL powerhouse over the ensuing five seasons.
What McMaster and Crisp would be able to accomplish from 1980 through 1985 was an astonishingly awesome run that featured good drafting, good trading and good coaching.
Through the 1980-1981, 1981-1982, 1982-1983, 1983-1984 and 1984-1985 regular seasons, the Greyhound reeled off respective records of 47-19-2, 40-25-3, 48-21-1, 38-24-4 and 54-11-1 with McMaster and Crisp at the helm.
And what the made two so effective together is that neither one acted as the boss of the other. To be sure, it may be as true an equal partnership of GM and coach as the OHL has ever seen.
Still, despite the regular season successes, the Greyhounds were twice upset in the league championship series despite being the no. 1 seed as first-place finishers.
It first happened in stunning fashion to end the 1980-1981 campaign when the Greyhounds lost to Kitchener in the finals after having finished 27 points ahead of crackerjack coach Orval Tessier and the Rangers during the regular season.
The Greyhounds of that season featured a trio of goalies in John Vanbiesbrouck, Marc D’Amour and Ken Porteous and an offensive juggernaut led by OHL scoring champion John (Snake) Goodwin accompanied by Steve Gatzos, Doug Shedden, Tony (Boots) Butorac, Ron Handy and Ron Francis.
Goodwin lit up the lamp to the tune of 56 goals, 110 assists, 166 points followed by Gatzos at 78-50-128, Shedden at 51-72-123, Butorac at 50-70-120, Handy at 43-43-86 and Francis with 26-43-69 totals.
The upset loss to Oshawa in the 1982-1983 playoff finals wasn’t nearly as devastating as the Greyhounds had only finished four points ahead of whiz kid coach Paul Theriault and the Generals during the regular season.
Still, both setbacks in the finals were very disappointing to McMaster, Crisp, their talented lot of players and the overflow crowd of fans who packed Memorial Gardens to its rickety rafters for each and every home game.
Along the way, though — and before finally winning the OHL championship in 1984-1985 and a banner season that ended with McMaster and Crisp both getting pro jobs — there were countless number of regular season and playoff highlights worth remembering and re-writing.
Playoff series of note that were hard fought, spirited and downright nasty featured showdowns galore with the aforementioned Kitchener Rangers as well as the erstwhile Brantford Alexanders.
For as talented as the Greyhounds were, Kitchener had its share of stars from back then that included forwards Brian Bellows, Grant Martin, Jeff Larmer, John Tucker and Mike Eagles and defenseman Joe McDonnell, Allan MacInnis, Scott Stevens and David Shaw, along with goalie Wendell Young.
And Brantford, despite always finishing below the Soo in the standings, gave the Greyhounds tough battles in three straight playoff seasons, only to come up short each time — in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
The Alexanders were well managed and coached by Dave Draper and featured a number of standout players from those three seasons including goalies Darren Cossar and Allan Bester, defenseman Ric Nattress and Tony Curtale and forwards Len Hachborn, Dave Gagner, Mike Hoffman, Rick Pickersgill, Rich Goodfellow, Mike Millar, Jason Lafreniere and Shayne Corson.
Meanwhile, over the five years of Hound power, McMaster as the GM went out and got a multitude of talented players for Crisp to coach.
And as good as McMaster was at drafting players, he was also very good at obtaining them, earning him the suitable nickname of ‘Trader Sam.’
McMaster had a knack of making shrewd trades that were good for both the Greyhounds and their opponents, which made him both popular and trustworthy for other OHL general managers to deal with.
Among the trades that McMaster made to bring in players who really helped the Greyhounds over the five years were deals that brought forwards (Jungle) Jim Aldred, Pat Lahey, Graeme Bonar, Bob Probert, Chris Brant and Wayne Presley, defenseman Jim Pavese and goalies Marty Abrams and Scott Mosey to the Soo.
Obtaining Bonar from the Windsor Spitfires for steady defenseman Mike Neill ranks as one of the best trades ever made by McMaster.
The likeable Bonar, one of the OHL’s fastest big men at the time, would amazingly score 79 goals, 91 assists, 170 points in 82 games over the course of the 1984-1985 campaign — regular season and playoffs included — as the Greyhounds won their first ever OHL championship.
That 1984-1985 OHL title team will live on for one that produced a spotless 33-0-0 regular season record followed by a playoff march that eliminated the Kitchener Rangers, Hamilton Steelhawks and Peterborough Petes en route to championship glory.
The Greyhounds of 1984-1985 were led by forward Wayne Groulx who tallied 59 goals, 85 assists, 144 points in 64 regular season games before adding 18 goals, 18 assists, 36 points in 16 playoff games.
The leading scorer — by far — in Greyhound franchise history, good guy Groulx has never had his no. 9 retired, which remains a bone of contention with many long-time followers of the team.
Next on the scoring chart was the aforementioned Graeme Bonar followed by the most productive defenseman in Greyhound history, Chris Felix who, that 1984-1985 season alone netted 36 goals, 93 assists, 129 points in 81 games, playoffs included.
Other Hounds who were major factors in the championship season were forwards Mike Oliverio, Derek King, Bob Probert, Brit Peer, Chris Brant and Wayne Presley, defensemen Tim Hoover and Jeff Beukeboom and goalies Scott Mosey and Marty Abrams.
And the clear-cut architects were the aforementioned brain trust of GM Sam McMaster and coach Terry Crisp.