Spitfires of Sault Ste. Marie

February 27, 2024

Should the Windsor Spitfires opt to take a player from Sault Ste. Marie at the upcoming April 12-13 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft it would lengthen a long lasting alliance with kids from the Soo.

Defenseman Connor Toms became the most recent in an extended line of players from Sault Ste. Marie who have suited up for the Spitfires when he was acquired by Windsor via trade with the Soo Greyhounds earlier this season. To be sure, the number of Sault Ste. Marie lads who have played for Spitfires over the years is noteworthy and pronounced.

Let us begin with an initial list of six players from Sault Ste. Marie 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 from the Soo Legion midgets 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. Initially 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 an absolute fan favourite. Evans was an on ice leader for the Spitfires with a crashing, smashing, 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, as a member of the 2017 Memorial Cup champion 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 before moving on to finish his OHL career in spectacular style by back stopping the Kitchener Rangers to within an overtime period of the Western Conference playoff championship.

Others from Sault Ste. Marie 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).

The last time the Spitfires drafted a player from Sault Ste. Marie was in the 14th round of the 2022 OHL priority selections when they snapped up defenseman Gage Evans from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League. The big defender is now developing with the Spitfires top affiliate, the Windsor Lasalle Vipers of the Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

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