Sticks for Brains – The Petes Start ANOTHER New Era

Pat Trudeau looks at our storied local hockey franchise, The Peterborough Petes, and the recent changes to team leadership

The Peterborough Memorial Centre, home of the Peterborough Petes. (Photo: Pat Trudeau)
The Peterborough Memorial Centre, home of the Peterborough Petes. (Photo: Pat Trudeau)

Living in Canada, we have one national sport — hockey. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Newfoundland, Manitoba or the Yukon: hockey is king.

Things are no different here in Peterborough, and you can see that when the NHL playoffs start. The parking lots quickly fill with team flags anchored to car windows.

The NHL lockout is throughout the news and we hear updates daily regarding the ongoing discussions (or lack thereof) between the league and the players.

However, while the millionaires argue with the billionaires, OUR club is having a hell of a time.

The Peterborough Petes were born back in 1956, after a junior team moved from Kitchener to our little farming community. The club became the sponsored junior team of the Montreal Canadiens and experienced consistent success over the years. It’s also been a hotbed for helping propel more NHL stars than any other team in the world. Steve Yzerman, Bob Gainey, Larry Murphy, Doug Jarvis, Jordan and Eric Staal, Jamie Langenbrunner, Steve Larmer … and the list goes on and on. Not to mention coaches like Dick Todd, Gary Green, Mike Keenan, Roger Neilson and the incomparable Scotty Bowman.

The team had piles of success over the years, right up until Dick Todd returned from retirement to coach the club during their 50th anniversary season. It was 2006 and the Petes were crowned OHL champs, only to be defeated in the Memorial Cup in Moncton. The Petes still came back as OHL champs and Dick Todd retired for good. Then the roller coaster started.

Now if you look at that 2006 achievement, it was the first time the team had won the title since 1996. Before that, they won in 1993, 1989 and 1980. You see, that’s what happens in junior hockey. The quality of hockey you’re playing changes from year to year so much because the team itself changes so much from year to year. Kids outgrow the league, get traded or move on to the AHL or NHL. The motto for the OHL should be “here today, gone tomorrow”.

The funny thing about our sport is that we’re quick to react to losses, and often call for someone’s head on a platter if things don’t go the way we want them to. The most common changes happen behind the bench and in the team office. But does it always work? Well, no. It almost never works. Particularly when you’re talking about removing a General Manager like the Petes did last week.

Dave Reid spent 17 years in the NHL and several more as an analyst. He has a great hockey mind and knows the game as well as anyone. If someone is to blame for the lack of success in the Petes organization, it’s the board of directors. They were the ones that hired both of the previous GMs and coaches. They hired Dave Reid and gave him the reigns of the oldest team in the OHL, when he had zero experience in junior hockey management.

So the board of directors has hired and fired two GMs and two coaches, yet how many of the members of board have been replaced? The easy answer to that one is none.

You know, there was a lot of talk earlier in the year of a group proposing to purchase the Petes and exploring a downtown arena to boost the downtown core and revitalize the club. While the thought of shoehorning an arena somewhere in the downtown core is slightly ridiculous, the idea of a change of ownership is a brilliant one. I get the feeling that the club has lost its identity, and we all know that attendance in the PMC is down. Imagine the excitement that Peterborough would get if the club had new leadership that understood marketing and could bring back a winning culture.

I’m not taking anything away from their effort on the ice, but what’s happening in the Petes organization over the last six years would have been a lot smaller of a pill to swallow if it wasn’t the “same old, same old” at the top. We’ve changed players, coaches, general managers and water boys — but the one change we haven’t made yet is to the suits that get to hide behind a boardroom door.