I recently marked my 10-year anniversary as the play-by play voice of the Sudbury Wolves and I found myself looking back over the past decade. All of those years have included mainly road games on the radio with the last four years branching out into television, doing home games.
Last weekend, coming home from another road trip, I got to thinking about how many kilometers I have spent on the bus. While I couldn’t come up with an exact number, I think it’s safe to say it’s in the thousands that have taken me across the province dozens of times, with trips into Michigan and Pennsylvania.
It’s funny how many people think it’s cool that I get to travel with the team, watch games on the road and stay in hotels. I agree that I am lucky to get the opportunity, but I will admit the novelty of bus travel isn’t what it used to be.
Luckily, technology has come a long way that allows us to watch movies on screens on the bus as well as on laptops, tablets and smart phones. Wi-fi also allows us to use our devices to surf online to help keep us entertained. That does help pass the time, when you consider the amount of travel the Wolves have to do.
Looking back over the past 10 years I have had the pleasure of watching a lot of good young hockey players pull on the Wolves jersey. Names like Zach Stortini, Marc Staal, Adam McQuaid, Nick and Marcus Foligno and Michael Sgarbossa are names that come to mind.
But I also remember names like Shandor Alfonso (now an OHL linesman), Luke Dubbin, Patrick Echlechner and Michael Swick. In the case of Dubbin and Swick, these were two of the smartest kids I’ve ever come across. There are a number of current Wolves that will likely stick with me as favourites as well — guys like Frank Corrado, Justin Sefton and Nathan Pancel who stand out as leaders, as well as pranksters.
I’ve worked with three head coaches in my time with the club. I was lucky to experience a few months with the legendary Bert Templeton when I first came on board back in November 2002. That was followed up with seven seasons with Mike Foligno, someone I enjoyed watching during his time in the NHL. Mike had a presence about him, was very intense, but was also one of the funniest guys around. I am currently in my third season with Trent Cull, who I think is going to be around the coaching fraternity for some time to come.
I have been asked time and time again the last couple of weeks about my favourite moments over the last 10 years, so I’ve whittled the list down to my top three.
3. 2011-12 - Michael Sgarbossa winning the OHL scoring title. He was a joy to watch for what he could do on the ice. He could dominate a game and was always there with the big goal when the team needed it. He was also a class act off the ice and was one of the best ambassadors for the Wolves and the city of Sudbury.
2. Dec. 17, 2004 - The Sudbury Wolves ended the London Knights CHL record 31-game unbeaten streak. London fans will say they had a number of players away at the Team Canada World Junior camp, but the Wolves had five players suspended, along with coach Mike Foligno, because of a brawl the night before in Windsor. I will never forget the 9,000+ fans in London giving their team a five-minute standing ovation as the streak came to an end.
1. The Wolves 2007 run to the OHL finals. It all began on the final game of the regular season. The Wolves had lost seven in a row before winning that final game 6-4 in Ottawa. I remember Marc Staal getting on the bus saying they were going to make some noise in the playoffs. That noise included wins over Mississauga, a four-game sweep over Barrie and a memorable six-game series win over Belleville, ending with a Matt Dias goal in triple overtime. I have never heard the Sudbury Arena louder than it was that game and Game 3 of the OHL Finals against Plymouth. That team got on such a roll, catching lightning in a bottle all the way to within two overtime goals away from a trip to Vancouver.
It’s been a fun ride the last 10 years and I have been lucky to be associated with an organization like the Sudbury Wolves. My biggest wish is that the fans are rewarded for their patience with a winning team and someday a Memorial Cup champion.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the news director at EZ Rock and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.