Sunday, July 14, 2013
July by the Numbers heads south of Detroit to the only Canadian city south of an American city for jersey #14.
The Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League of Canadian junior hockey were formed in 1971 and gained entry into the OMJHL, later shortened to the OHL, as an expansion franchise in time for the 1975-76 season.
They won their first OHL playoff championship in 1988 after closing out the season with a remarkable 35 wins in their final 36 games, including becoming the first team to march through the OHL playoffs undefeated. Based on their OHL title, they were entered in the Memorial Cup Playoffs, where they made it to the championship final.
In February of 2008, Spitfires captain Mickey Renaud died of an undetected heart condition, shocking the Spitfires to the point that team General Manager Warren Rychel called it "the biggest tragedy in Spitfire history". Renaud's #18 was retired by the franchise and a road leading to their new stadium was named in his honor.
The Spitfires rebounded from their loss in 2008-09 with the best season in franchise history, going 57-10-1, which included going undefeated during their final games in their old arena before moving to their new home midway through the season. They battled their way through the OHL playoffs, including a second round, five game series in which every game went into overtime, before taking their second OHL playoff championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup playoffs.
There, the Spitfires lost their first two games by a goal, including the first one in overtime to Drummondville and the second to Rimouski, putting themselves in a nearly impossibly deep hole, but they won an elimination game 2-1 over WHL champions Kelowna to earn a berth in a tie-breaker game, comparable to a quarterfinal matchup. They defeated hosts Rimouski to advance to the semifinal in a rematch with QMJHL champions Drummondville, who they eliminated 3-2 in overtime to earn a berth in the Memorial Cup Final against Kelowna.
Windsor had a dream start to the game, as they scored on their first three shots on goal and went on to win 4-1 for their first ever Memorial Cup championship, the first team to ever come back from two losses and the first team to win a tie breaker game and take the title - all with Renaud's jersey on their bench.
Windsor celebrates with the Memorial Cup and Mickey Renaud's jersey
They backed up their championship season with another 50 win season, this time going 50-12-1-5. They won their two OHL playoff rounds, only to fall behind the Kitchener Rangers 3 games to none before becoming only the third team in OHL history to come back and win four straight to capture the series. The Spitfires then swept the Barrie Colts in four straight to win the OHL championship for the second season in a row, and again qualify for the Memorial Cup.
They made life easier for themselves this time around with three straight wins in the round robin phase by scores of 9-3, 6-2 and 4-3 to advance directly to the championship final, where they met the hosts, the Brandon Wheat Kings, who they again routed, this time 9-1 to become back to back champions and finish their playoff season with a 20-3 record and 12 straight victories.
Notable players in Spitfires history include Adam Graves, whose #9 is one of four numbers retired by the team, Ed Jovanovski, Jason Spezza and Cory Stillman as well as recent #1 overall selection in the NHL Draft Taylor Hall.
Today's featured jersey is a 1993-94 Windsor Spitfires Ed Jovanovski jersey. This jersey, from the year Jovanovski was drafted first overall by the Florida Panthers, features the logo used by the Spitfires from 1989 to 2008. ovanovski was the first Windsor Spitfire ever taken first overall, and the only one until Taylor Hall in 2010.
Today's video section begins with the drafting of Ed Jovanovski first overall by the Florida Panthers in 1994, which includes footage of him wearing today's featured Spitfires jersey.
Next, a video documenting the Spitfires remarkable comeback to win the 2009 Memorial Cup after losing their first two games.
Finally, a tribute to Mickey Renaud, the late captain of the Spitfires.