For many years, the Ottawa 67 have been known as one of the weaker teams in the National Hockey League (NHL). They often struggled to qualify for playoffs and were often seen as an easy win for other teams. However, in recent seasons, the tides have turned for this once struggling team, as they have managed to not only qualify for playoffs, but also make significant strides towards becoming a top contender in the league. This unexpected turnaround has surprised many in the hockey world and has left fans wondering what exactly led to this change.
The Ottawa 67 is named after the year 1967, which was when the team was founded. They were originally part of the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) and later joined the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) in the 1968-1969 season. Despite having a strong start in their early years, the team began to struggle in the late 1990s until the early 2000s. Many factors contributed to this slump, such as strong competition from other teams, inconsistent coaching, and weak drafting strategies.
Being a minor league team, the Ottawa 67 focused on developing young players and sending them to the NHL. However, this proved to be a challenge as they faced tough competition from other major junior teams in North America and around the world. Many talented players often chose to play for bigger and more successful OHL teams, which left the 67 with a weaker roster. This also affected their ability to win games and attract fans.
In 2001, the team underwent a change in coaching staff as they hired Brian Kilrea, a Hall of Famer and former coach of the 67 in the 1980s. Kilrea’s return brought hope to the organization and fans, as he was known for his strong leadership and winning record. He also had a keen eye for talent and implemented a new drafting strategy that focused on not only developing young players, but also recruiting top players from other teams.
Under Kilrea’s guidance, the 67 began to see improvements in their gameplay and performances. They started to qualify for playoffs and even made it to the OHL finals in the 2001-2002 season. This success was short-lived, as they faced another slump in the following years due to financial struggles and changes in the OHL structure.
In 2008, the team was acquired by Jeff Hunt, who had a strong background in managing sports teams. He brought in new staff and implemented a new business plan that focused on engaging with the community and building a strong fan base. This not only helped with the team’s finances, but it also created a positive impact on the players, who now had a supportive and energetic fan base cheering them on.
Hunt’s vision for the 67 was to create a winning culture and develop players who were not only skilled on the ice, but also off the ice. He wanted the team to be a role model for young aspiring hockey players and be a positive role model in the community. So, he introduced mentoring programs and community service initiatives that allowed players to give back and develop important life skills.
This change in management and focus on community engagement proved to be a turning point for the Ottawa 67. The team was able to attract top players, who were now interested in playing for a team with a strong sense of community and a winning mindset. This was evident in their performances, as they went on to win the OHL championship in the 2010-2011 season.
Not only did they win the OHL championship, but the 67 continued to make strides in the following years, qualifying for playoffs consistently and making it to the OHL finals multiple times. They also produced top players such as Tyler Toffoli, Shane Prince, and Cody Ceci, who have all gone on to play in the NHL and represent the 67’s strong development program.
The turnaround of the Ottawa 67 serves as an inspiration to minor league teams and showcases the importance of strong leadership, community engagement, and developing players both on and off the ice. Their story also highlights the impact a dedicated fan base can have on a team’s success. The 67’s journey from bottom to top is a reminder that with dedication, hard work, and a strong vision, any team can overcome obstacles and achieve greatness.