Recently acquired defenseman Connor Toms has become the latest in a long line of players from Sault Ste. Marie who have suited up for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League over the years. Indeed, the number of Sault boys who have become Spitfires is rather notable.
Let us begin with a list of players from the Sault who had especially distinguished careers as members of the Spitfires.
Brent Jarrett. An unlikely superstar, Jarrett was languishing with the Soo Thunderbirds of the erstwhile International Jr. B Hockey League in 1977 when the Soo Greyhounds, who were short on players, called the small center up to the OHL. And Jarrett would never return to the Jr. B level, becoming an OHL standout instead. After parts of two seasons with the Greyhounds, for whom he averaged close to a point per game, Jarrett was traded to Windsor for fellow center Dave Hannan, who had fallen out of favour with Spitfires coach-general manager Wayne Maxner. Under Maxner, Jarrett became an OHL star in Windsor. In parts of two seasons with the Spitfires — including an overage campaign — Jarrett busted loose for 44 goals, 124 assists, 168 points in only 90 games.
Paul Maurice. The big defenseman joined the Spitfires after being a third round pick at the 1984 OHL priority selections draft. He would play in more than 220 games for Windsor before becoming an assistant coach with the Spitfires at age 21. Remarkably, Maurice has since become a National Hockey League head coach of more than 25 years and is on his way to becoming a legend of the game.
Kevin MacKay. Originally a 19th round pick by the Belleville Bulls at the 1988 OHL priority selections draft, the slick right winger would be traded to Windsor and become a scoring sensation for the Spitfires. In all, MacKay played in 165 games for the Spitfires and totalled 88 goals, 134 assists, 222 points in a Windsor uniform.
Cory Evans. Originally a seventh round draft pick of London in 1991, the fibrous left winger would play parts of three seasons with the Knights before being traded to Windsor where he became a point per game player with the Spitfires and a fan favourite. Evans was an on-ice leader for the Spitfires with a crashing, rambunctious style that resulted in a multitude of goals, assists and penalty minutes.
Craig Kennedy. Kennedy personified consistency after the Spitfires took him in the second round of the 1999 OHL priority selections draft.A sturdy, hard working right winger, Kennedy played five full seasons — and more than 300 games — in Windsor, totaling 113 goals along the way, playoffs included. Known for his smarts and leadership qualities, Kennedy quietly rose to become an assistant captain and then captain for the Spitfires.
Mario Culina. Culina joined the Spitfires as an un-drafted free agent from the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League in 2015. He would be a valuable backup goalie to starter Michael DiPietro for two seasons in Windsor and was part of the Spitfires stunning Memorial Cup championship team of 2017. Culina fashioned a two season record of 23-13-2 as a Spitfire.
Others from the Sault who spent at least part of their OHL careers in Windsor as members of the Spitfires include forward Frank Tomchak (1975-1976), defenseman Dave Mancuso (1977-1978), forward Toots Kovacs (1978-1979), forward Gus Greco (1980 to 1983), forward Terry Maki (1983-1984), defenseman Rob Frayn (1991-1992), forward Joey Sewell (1998 to 2001), forward Jordan Nolan (2006 to 2008), defenseman Mike McIntyre (2010-2011) and forward Anthony Stefano (2014 to 2016).
And now, with the aforementioned Connor Toms as a recently acquired defenseman with the Spitfires, the Sault’s OHL connection to Windsor continues.