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A Brief History of the Peterborough Petes

When referencing Peterborough, one instantly thinks of the historic junior franchise, the Peterborough Petes. Although the organization started off as the Toronto-Peterborough Transit Petes, donning red, white, yellow, and blue as an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens in 1956, the team has since evolved into the well-known maroon and white Petes.

As the Petes enter their 64th season as a franchise, the club maintains the title of the oldest continuously operating team in the Ontario Hockey League. Below is a brief reflection of Petes history from their inaugural season to the next wave of talent skating into the 2019-20 season. 

1956-1966

The TPT Petes played their first game at the Memorial Centre on November 4, 1956 against the St. Catharines TeePees. Despite their initial success, the TPT Petes only went on to win 11 of 52 games that season. During their 1957 offseason, long-time NHLer Ted Kennedy became the new head coach.

During the 1957-58 season, Scotty Bowman succeeded Kennedy as head coach and in 1959, Bowman and his Petes captured the OHA Championship before losing the Memorial Cup to the Winnipeg Braves. Future NHLer Wayne Connelly scored 11 goals in 3 games during the come-from-behind series win over the St. Michael’s Majors and teammate Pat Casey, who was drafted in the first round by the Canadiens, registered 30 points in 49 games. The team also featured players like Gerry Brisson, Irv Spencer, and goalie Jacques Caron. 

Bowman would coach for two more seasons before getting promoted by the Canadiens as a scout and amateur supervisor. Today, Bowman ranks second in all-time for most Stanley Cup wins by a player, coach, or executive with 14 championships. He went on to coach the St. Louis Blues, Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. He won the Jack Adams Award in 1977 and 1996, and is currently a Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations for the Chicago Blackhawks. 

During the 1965-66 season, the TPT Petes claimed their first Hamilton Spectator Trophy, awarded annually by the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) to the team who finishes the regular season with the best record. The team was led by Head Coach Roger Bedard, and players like Andre Lacroix, Danny Grant, and Gary Monahan, who all went on to have long successful NHL and WHA careers. 

1966-76 Roger Neilson era

Many hockey fans refer to the Petes 1967-76 decade as the ‘Roger Neilson era’ as he manned Peterborough’s bench, and went on to hold the second position for all-time wins as a head coach in Petes history. Neilson led his team to seven consecutive winning seasons from 1968 to 1975, and winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup in 1972. Neilson clinched a total of 283 wins in Peterborough across 574 games, obtaining a 58% winning percentage before accepting a head coach position with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  

This era was the cornerstone of the Petes’ long term success. Neilson developed NHL stars such as Rick MacLeish, Mickey Redmond, Bob Gainey, Greg Millen, and more. These four alumni alone played 2,938 NHL games in total. This put Peterborough on the hockey map and carved out a path for many Petes to develop into future stars across professional hockey leagues. It was in the 1974-75 season, during the Neilson era, that fans saw the birth of the official Petes and the maroon and white colours come to define the brand.

1976-77

For the first time in nearly ten years, the Petes found themselves looking for a new head coach. Just before the 1976-77 season, the Petes hired Gary Young and drafted key players such as Bob Atwell, Keith Crowder, and Tim Trimper. It was during this season that Wayne Gretzky played three games for the Petes and recorded three assists. 

1977-1980 – Three years, Three Championships 

In 1977, the Petes board of directors brought in a new coach. Gary Green acquired new talent such as Bill Gardner and Larry Murphy. The duo made an immediate impact on the organization. From 1977-1980, the Petes won the Hamilton Spectator Trophy once and three OHL Championships. Green led the Petes to two OHA Championships and the Petes’ only Memorial Cup in 1979. Coach Mike Keenan would follow up earning the OHA championship again, in 1980. 

Many of these players from the 1978-1980 championship teams went on to be incredible NHL players like Mark Kirton, Steve Larmer, Doug Evans, Keith Crowder, and Keith Acton, to name a few.

1981-1993

In 1973, Dick Todd became a trainer for the Petes, working his way up the hockey operations hierarchy before being named head coach during the 1980-81 season. Although Todd replaced Dave Dryden as head coach during the 1980-81 season, his impact wasn’t felt by the organization until the following season.

In his first full season, Todd won 46 of 70 games, earning a 67% winning percentage. Much like Bowman and Neilson, Todd was endowed with extraordinary on-ice talent in his initial year like Steve Yzerman, Bob Errey, and Dave Reid. Under Todd’s leadership, Yzerman’s statistics grew substantially as he registered 42 goals and 49 assists in 1983-84, a 27 point growth from his previous season.

Many young players under Todd were drafted to the NHL and have gone onto successful NHL playing and coaching careers. Ron Tugnutt, Tie Domi, Luke Richardson, Mike Ricci, and Dallas Eakins all began their careers with Todd. 

Dave Lorentz, who currently sits as Vice President on the Petes Board of Directors, was captain of Todd’s 1989 OHL Championship team before getting drafted to the NHL by the Washington Capitals. Lorentz spent three seasons with the Petes from 1987-1990 registering 143 points in 177 games.

Dick’s strong leadership and direction was reflected on the ice as the Petes made the playoffs all thirteen seasons when he was the head coach. His tenure led the Petes to two J. Ross Robertson Cup OHL Championships in 1988-89 and 1992-93, and a personal win of the Matt Leyden Trophy as OHL Coach of the Year in 1987-88. 

Todd accepted an assistant coach position with the New York Rangers before the 1993-94 began. He won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 with Petes alumni Mike Keenan and Steve Larmer. Todd remained with the Rangers until the conclusion of the 1992-93 season, later returning to the Petes as head coach in 2004. 

1977 to 2003

For 27 consecutive years, the Peterborough Petes made the playoffs. The Petes are nine time OHL Champions, have the most Memorial Cup appearances of any franchise (9), and the most Memorial Cup final game appearances (6). The Petes have won the George Richardson Memorial Trophy once and won the Hamilton Spectator Trophy seven times. In addition, the maroon and white have advanced to the J. Ross Robertson Cup finals 13 times, winning the title 9 times. As a franchise, The Petes have missed the postseason just eight times (1961-62, 1975-76, 2003-04, 2006-07, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2017-2018). 

2004 – 06 

With five years of NHL experience under his belt, Todd returned to the Petes as head coach in 2004. Todd improved the team drastically as the team went from 50 points in the 2003-04 season to 81 points in the 2004-05 season, advancing to the third round of playoffs.

Players like Liam Reddox, Dan Ryder, Jamie Tardif, Patrick Kaleta, Jordan Staal, and a trade for Steve Downie made significant on-ice improvements for the Petes since their 2004-05 season, earning the J. Ross Robertson Trophy in 2006. The Petes travelled to Moncton, New Brunswick for the Memorial Cup, finishing in third place due to a tie-breaker game to the Vancouver Giants. Todd became the winningest coach in Petes history with 511 wins and recorded his 500th career victory faster than any other coach in Major Junior Hockey, accomplishing the goal in just 813 games.  

Hosting the 1996 Memorial Cup & Petes 40th Anniversary

In 1996, Peterborough was awarded the opportunity to host the Memorial Cup, aligning with the Petes 40th Anniversary. During the 1995-96 season, General Manager Jeff Twohey traded for Steve Jones, adding him to the roster full of future NHL players such as Cameron Mann, Jason Williams, and Shawn Thronton to fuel on-ice success. The Petes won the J. Ross Robertson Cup against the Guelph Storm and advanced to the Memorial Cup finals at the Memorial Centre, but lost to the Granby Predateurs. Each game throughout the tournament saw a sold out crowd. 

Twohey began as a scout in 1980, a role he held until the conclusion of the 1988-89 season, before getting promoted to Assistant General Manager and Assistant Coach in 1988-89. Five years later, before the 1993-94 season, Twohey became the General Manager for the Petes. Twohey held the position as General Manager for 17 consecutive seasons.

As a GM, Twohey recruited and developed numerous players that have come to define the club’s reputation, continuing to categorize Peterborough as a hockey hotbed. Players like Jamie Langenbrunner, Shawn Thornton, Kurtis Foster, Matt Carkner, Zach Bogosian, Ryan Spooner, and the late Steve Montador, to name a few. 

During his time with the Petes, Twohey won the J. Ross Robertson Cup in 1980 and 1989 as a scout, again in 1993 as an assistant coach, and in both 1996 and 2006 as General Manager. Twohey was with the Petes from 1980-81 season until 2009-10, making him the longest serving employee in Peterborough Petes history.

2013-14: Let’s not forget this comeback

The Petes 2013-14 featured a playoff series that few teams have seen the likes of. After finishing the season in the middle of the pack, the Petes faced the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round of playoffs. The maroon and white quickly fell three games to the third seeded Fronts, and although the series was projected to be a sweep, the Petes won the next three games to force game seven. Two key components for the Petes in this series were the goal scoring flair of current Anaheim Duck Nick Ritchie, who scored the overtime game winner in game seven, and goal stopping skill of goalie Andrew D’Agostini. To put this in perspective, only 5 OHL teams  have faced a playoff series trailing 3 games to none, and turned around to win. 

The Petes celebrated their 60th Anniversary during the 2015-16 season, and although they were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, it was a great year in terms of developing players. The roster featured NHL- drafted players like Jonathan Ang (FLA), Steve Lorentz (CAR), Mathew Spencer (TB), and goalie Dylan Wells (EDM).   

2019-20: This season & beyond

With the Petes entering their 64th season, the future is bright for the franchise and fans, alike. This past June, Petes forward Nick Robertson was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs and goalie Hunter Jones by the Minnesota Wild, both in the second round. This season’s roster also features Semyon Der-Arguchintsev who was selected by the Leafs and defenceman Declan Chisholm by the Jets in the 2018 NHL Draft. 

“We have a good group of returnees who have great experience,” explained General Manager, Mike Oke. “Every player has something to prove and has high expectations for themselves. Our players want to prove why they were picked and/or signed by NHL teams, proving that they’re capable to play at any level. We also have a group of players who are focusing on the upcoming draft and who are going to continue to prove themselves, so there is a lot to be excited for.” 

In addition to a group of strong returning players, a wave of promising prospects like Mason McTavish and J.R. Avon will undoubtedly ignite excitement in the Memorial Centre throughout the 2019-20 season and well into the playoffs. 

Yes, the club’s unique colours and the Memorial Centre’s square corners have come to make the brand easily identifiable. However, what has defined Petes history is the team’s statistical success and undeniable on ice talent production.  If history repeats itself, then that is exactly what the Petes are preparing for moving forward.

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