Wednesday Sept. 24th, 2012
Walk into the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena and you’ll find a photo of the rink’s namesake as a youthful-looking 14-year-old in his red and white Hamilton Huskies uniform.
For most kids and teens in the area, it’s an unfamiliar look. Because, in the early 1990s, the Huskies became extinct, replaced by the Reps, a name that frankly sounded technical rather than fearsome.Well, the circle of hockey has completed its rotation. The
Huskies are back.
“It’s our roots,” says Mike Spadafora, a vice-president,
tournament chair and a head coach with the organization.
The history of the team name predates the Canada-Soviet
Summit Series we’ve been reading and hearing so much about in recent days. Back
in 1971 during the later years of the Police Minor Hockey system, the Huskies
were created. When the Hamilton Minor Hockey Association joined the Hamilton
Minor Hockey Council in 1988, the Huskies brand became the AAA arm of the
Over the next nearly two decades, guys such as Andreychuk,
Derek King, Steve Staios and Adam Mair wore the red maple leaf with white H on
But, as happens sometimes in youth sports, conflicts arose.
Not just in this city.
“There were hockey politics issues that went on,” Spadafora
Shocking, right? Politics in hockey?
Anyway, the group covering players in the old city of
Hamilton broke away from the OMHA and joined the newly formed Alliance. When it
did, the Huskies teams representing it were renamed the Reps.
The move wasn’t seamless. While a number of strong teams
have worn Reps colours over the subsequent years, there have also been
challenges. For a number of reasons — Spadafora points to a dwindling player
base in the inner city and economic disadvantages as two — the OMHA’s Junior
Bulldogs, who draw largely from the suburbs, became a provincial powerhouse,
while a fair share of Reps teams saw less success.
“In past years, the Bulldogs have been the better of the two
if you look at winning percentages,” he acknowledges.
Over the past while, though, the idea of going back to the
Huskies kept getting bounced around in meetings and during informal discussions
with players and parents and coaches at the rinks. Finally, during a board
meeting last November, someone — Spadafora can’t remember exactly who — asked
the question: Why aren’t we the Huskies?
Things took off from there. Basically, a return to the group’s
foundation was seen as a way to launch a reboot of the entire organization.
A new, modernized logo was designed, a new website was
constructed and new uniforms ordered. A new attitude was also created, he says.
Go to that new website and one of the first things that
jumps out is a running organizational win-loss record in the top corner.
There’s no hiding from results now. Charting how the Huskies as a group are
doing and whether things are heading in a positive direction is right there.
He says this is one of the ways they’ll monitor improvement
over the next three to five years, which he says is the time frame in which he
expects to see significant change.
The return to the past has been met with almost unanimous
approval. A number of the current players’ parents played as Huskies and are
glad for the continuity, even if it was interrupted for a time.
As for that other organization against which his is always
compared, Spadafora says he doesn’t give it much though. He says his group
isn’t in competition with the Bulldogs. They draw from different geographic
zones and have different challenges. He merely wants the new Huskies to offer
the best opportunities for its players
That said ...
“If that makes us better than the Bulldogs, we’ll take it.”