After two seasons in which the club had finished below .500 with Dave MacQueen behind the bench, the Petes weren’t expected to be strong Memorial Cup contenders. They proved everybody wrong.
The Petes finished sixth overall in the regular season standings but proceeded to knock off three favoured clubs on their way to the OHL championship beating Guelph Storm in a seven-game final. Mike Martone scored a dramatic overtime goal in the final game.
The Petes hosted QMJHL champions Granby Predateurs, WHL champs Brandon Wheat Kings and Guelph in the four-team tournament. Every game at the Memorial Centre was sold out.
The Petes had a good round-robin posting a 2-1 record with a 6-3 win over Granby and 2-1 victory against Guelph. Their lone loss was 3-2 to Brandon in overtime.
Cameron Mann’s third game winning goal of the tournament lifted the Petes past Brandon 4-3 in the semifinal. They advanced to meet Granby, coming off three days rest, in the final less than 24 hours later.
It was a memorable final but not for reasons the Petes would like to recall. Frederick Deschenes picked up the shutout as Granby won 4-0. The game is best known for the fog which plagued a humid Memorial Centre which did not have air conditioning at the time. Play was interrupted continuously so players could circle the ice to remove the fog. The heat affected the Petes much more dramatically than the rested Predateurs.
“The fan support we had was the biggest thing I remember and definitely the fog,” Martone said. “I played in Mississippi where it’s 10 times as hot and humid and we never had fog like that. Probably because they’re prepared for it and ready for it. The Memorial Centre staff did everything they could but they weren’t used to having that many people and weather like that.”
Mann recalls his game winner against Brandon came on a breakaway after he’d missed an earlier breakaway. He led the Petes playoff march with 27 goals in 24 games.
“I was on just such a roll I knew I was going to score a goal every game,” Mann said.“If I didn’t score in the first or second, I just knew I was going to score whether it was a big goal or not.”
Mann’s biggest recollection was also of the fans who wore a sea of white T-shirts to show support.
“It was an exciting time,” said Mann. “I can’t say enough about the fans because it was crazy, they were awesome. The atmosphere and the feeling you got when you came out onto the ice. It’s hard to put into words. It’s like winning a championship. You can’t really put it into words, it’s more a feeling.”
Mann also remembers how close-knit the team was and how they came together to buck the odds in the playoffs. The entire team dyed their hair blond as a unifying gesture.
“We never were expected to be there. We knew as a team we could win and go far but I think nobody expected us to really go that far and do as well as we did. They were hoping and cheering but I don’t think there was that pressure for us to be where we were, especially with Brandon and Granby there. We were at home but I still think we were the underdogs,” said Mann.