By Stewart Grant
Since the summer of 2016, I’ve held the volunteer position of Treasurer for the St. Marys Lincolns Junior B hockey club. It has been a remarkably interesting and challenging experience, to say the least.
The Lincolns’ status as “the second-oldest continuously-operating Junior B hockey club” has been threatened at various times throughout the franchise’s history, and certainly in recent years as well. While most clubs are nowadays backed by private ownership, the Lincolns are a community-owned team that survives in one of the league’s smallest markets (if not the very smallest).
Prior to my experience as Treasurer, I know the team has had its ups and downs. At times, private citizens have gone beyond the call of duty to keep the team afloat. The late D.R. Stevens, one of the founding members of the Lincolns, was one of these caretakers of the team. I’ve heard stories how, back in the days when the team held an Elimination Draw, he’d buy up whatever tickets hadn’t been sold so that the hockey team could enjoy the spoils of a successful fundraiser.
Bruce Graham, who held the position of Treasurer before me, was another man who has done so much to keep the Lincolns going over the years.
Graham maintained careful financial records that spanned over two decades, and, as the new Treasurer in 2016, I remember pouring over his results of the past. One thing was clear: if you can have a long playoff run, wow does that make a difference.
An example of this is the great Lincolns season of 2005-06. That year, the team’s offence came from stars like Nathan Peacock, Luke Vick, Dillon Stokes, Justin Salt, and Mike McLauglin. Brett Petrie patrolled the blueline that year, and Brian Hince tended goal.
The 2005-06 Lincolns finished first in the WOJHL regular season with 68 points, along with the Chatham Maroons. Then, they went on a long and thrilling playoff run.
The eighth-place London Nationals pushed the opening round to the limit before the Lincolns prevailed on home ice in Game 7. Three more home games followed in round two, with St. Marys ending the Petrolia Jets’ season in Game 5. This set the stage for a memorable final series against Chatham that went all the way to Game 7 in St. Marys with the Maroons emerging victorious.
Although the Lincolns fell heartbreakingly short of winning the WOJHL playoff title, they took the town on one hell of a ride, entertaining the home fans with eleven playoff games in St. Marys that season.
In contrast to the prior year (2004-05) in which the Lincolns lost in the first round, the 2005-06 Lincolns generated an additional $100,000 in revenue, thanks largely to those extra playoff games where local fans filled the St. Marys arena. For a small-market team with limited resources, you can imagine how important this playoff run was. This money stabilized the franchise, particularly after suffering double-digit losses in years 2000-01 through 2002-03.
Where would the 2019-20 Lincolns have gone?
This year’s St. Marys Lincolns might have lost in the second round to the Leamington Flyers. Or, they might’ve won the series, and gone on to defeat the London Nationals in the GOJHL final, advancing all the way to the Sutherland Cup. Sadly, we will never know. The outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus has abruptly changed our whole world, and the junior hockey season is just one of thousands of ways we have had to make adjustments in our society to fight the spread of the killer virus.
I’m just one of a large group of people in St. Marys who support the Lincolns organization, though as Treasurer I have a unique perspective on the workings of the team. All I can say is, after all the struggles we’ve faced in the last few seasons and after all of the obstacles that we have overcome….this sudden end to the playoffs really hurts.
See you next fall for another exciting year of Lincolns hockey where we can hopefully continue to build upon this year’s positive results. Thank you so much to everyone in the community who supported the team during this memorable 2019-20 season.
By Stewart Grant