The Quesnel Kangaroos are the Coy Cup champions. Again.
This is the 12th time in the 100-year history of the BC Hockey tournament for the Senior-AA Championship that the Roos have won the trophy. No other team has as many.
But it has been 25 years sinces they last hoisted B.C.’s most coveted adult hockey grail. The last time was 1997-98.
Quesnel knew they had a shot to win the Coy Cup when they were announced as the host team for the 100th anniversary of the event. Host team gets an automatic berth in the tournament, but that doesn’t come with a promise of being a contender. That comes from team-building, off-ice preparations, and what the players and coaches have within themselves. When the final buzzer at West Fraser Centre echoed across the April 1 night, the final score was Kangaroos 9, Terrace River Kings 2 and everyone in B.C. had their answer: the Roos were built to win and possessed the hearts of champions.
“What a battle,” said Quesnel Kangaroos general manager Tyler Coleman, celebrating on the post-game ice amidst helmets, gloves, sticks and the other flotsam and jetsam of ultimate victory.
“It’s just a nonstop constant challenge to get to this kind of a point,” he said, looking back at not just this sensational season of winning the Central Interior Hockey League regular season point total, but then winning the CIHL playoffs as well, and then plowing through the Coy Cup tournament undefeated. “This team works so hard all the time. I can’t say enough good about this team. They are so close-knit, everybody works so hard for each other, and that’s all you can really ask for. Everybody puts in every effort to make sure everybody’s held accountable and doing what they’re supposed to. That’s all you want in a championship team.”
Coleman said the past five years or so have been different, in the Roos dressing room. A core group of players set their sights on being the best in B.C. It’s a difficult process, to acquire the talent and dedication from enough players to make that a realistic goal, but those ambitious core players were magnets for an abundantly talented roster.
“It comes down to every player on the team is playing for the one next to him – playing together as a team,” said Coleman. “That was nonstop. There was never a point when you saw someone playing as an individual. Playing as a team is the only way you’re going to win. Harley (Gilks, head coach) says it so well to the guys, that every one of you is playing for the crest on the front of your jersey, not the name on the back. And that’s exactly what they’ve done, playing for each other, playing for the Roos, not for ourselves.”
“We talked all year about this, right?,” said team captain Alessio Tomassetti, in the moments after the victory was sealed by the buzzer, referring to all the steps along the way – regular season, playoffs, Coy Cup tournement – in which the Roos’ stated goal was not just competitive participation, but to win it all.
When the River Kings scored first in the Coy Cup championship game, the crowd didn’t calm their energy and the players weren’t staggered by the momentary blow. Tomassetti, one of those original core players Coleman was talking about, turned around and scored two quick ones himself, as if to steer his teammates back to that stated goal of win it all, without exception, every game, every period, every shift.
“I was focused in that dressing room,” he said. “I wanted to get a couple of big goals tonight for the boys, and everyone stepped up so I could do that, and a lot of others could do that; it was a complete team accomplishment tonight, just like all season long. We have so much skill and toughness. We had the grinders grinding, we had our skilled guys stepping up, it was just a heck of a game.”
Gilks said, after the thunderstorm of gloves and parafernalia, that it was the mystique of the Roos uniform and the pride of the core players that inspired the whole team.
“We have a bunch of young kids here now who wanted it just as bad as the originals. It was just lights-out from there,” he said. “It’s a long time waiting for this one. It was electrifying: the team, the fans, the building, the whole group of volunteers, it was just a great moment.”
Tomassetti said it was about respecting the trophy and the game itself, to build a team of Coy Cup winners, and that extended far past the scoresheet roster but on through the volunteers and sponsors and coaching staff and people who dedicated themselves to the team even though they never set foot on the ice. As someone who worked hard on the organizing aspect of the team as well as in the jersey, he got a clear view of what that looks like behind the scenes and he was impressed and appreciative.
The largest crowd to ever watch a Quesnel Kangaroos home game roared their agreement.