Taylor Hall named Memorial Cup MVP - twice
The 2010 Windsor Spitfires was perhaps the greatest team in the history of junior hockey, going undefeated in the Memorial Cup tournament and slamming the Brandon Wheat Kings 9-1 in the final.
â€œNo one has ever dominated the Memorial Cup like that in the 100-year history,â€ says Warren Rychel, who served as general manager of the team.
The Spitfires had captured the Cup in 2009 and the following yearâ€™s win made for rare back-to-back victories. Kingstonâ€™s Taylor Hall led the way and was named MVP in both tournaments.
Just a month later, Hall was selected first overall in the NHL entry draft, the only Kingston player to ever be at the top of the draft list. Chosen by Edmonton, he is now with Boston in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
Born in Calgary, Hall started skating at the age of three. His family moved to Kingston when he was 13 and it was already clear that he had exceptional hockey skills. Joining the Spitfires in 2007, he went on to be named rookie of the year in both the Ontario and Canadian leagues.
His scoring prowess with Windsor was amazing. In 2009-10, he tallied 106 points in the regular season, in addition to 35 in the playoffs on the road to the Memorial Cup.
During a break in the Stanley Cup playoffs last week, he called the Original Hockey Hall of Fame to chat about the incredible experience. â€œWhen you look back, junior hockey is a special time. Youâ€™re all the same age. No families yet and a group of guys that are really close.â€
And the Spitfires werenâ€™t a one-man show. An incredible 11 players from the 2010 team would go on to play in the NHL. Current pro skaters include Cam Fowler and Adam Henrique of Anaheim, as well as Ryan Ellis of Nashville and Zach Kassian of Edmonton.
The teamâ€™s strength grew out of a tragedy. In February 2008, team captain Mickey Renaud died suddenly of an undetected heart condition. â€œWe went through a lot together,â€ Hall recalls. â€œIt made us a really tight team.â€
In the 2009 Memorial Cup tournament, that unity helped them bounce back after losing the first two games. â€œAt that point, we had to win every game, so we won our first game and got on a roll.â€
â€œThe first Memorial Cup was really special,â€ he says of the 2009 championship.
After that victory, GM Rychel was determined to repeat. To strengthen the team, he engineered a trade with the Belleville Bulls to acquire goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Following the Memorial Cup win, Grubauer would play for the Kingston Frontenacs in 2010-11. He is now in the net for a powerful Colorado team, which is one of the favourites to capture the Stanley Cup this year.
While Windsor went undefeated in the 2010 Memorial Cup tournament, the team almost didnâ€™t qualify. â€œIn the OHL playoffs, we were down three games to none to Kitchener and came back to win four straight to take the series. And we never lost after that.â€