Since it began as the Ontario Hockey Association’s junior league in 1933 before morphing into the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League and eventually just the OHL in 1980, many great players have suited up in it, including a large contingent from Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.
Looking at the past 50 years specifically, a plethora of local products have achieved success in varying forms or another.
The top OHL point-getter from the city over the years is Greg Puhalski, who piled up 361 in 223 outings, including 120 goals, while starring for the Kitchener Rangers and London Knights.
Back in the early to mid-1970s, Rick Adduono was a standout for the St. Catharines Blackhawks, where in three seasons he racked up 310 points in 180 games while scoring 123 times. His 135-point campaign in 1973-74 tied him for the OHA scoring lead that year, which was the first time that someone from the Lakehead finished atop the scoring table since 1940-41, when Gaye Stewart did likewise for the Toronto Marlboros.
Stewart only played 16 games that season, but amassed an OHA-best 44 points, including 31 goals.
Adduono’s offensive numbers are the second-most of any player from the city in the major junior ranks while his 1.72 point-per-game pace remains tops ahead of Puhalski’s 1.62.
Third in the regional OHL point parade sits former Kitchener standout Mike Richards with 292 as he tallied 115 times, set-up 183 others and helped the Rangers win both an OHL and Memorial Cup championship. He also won gold and silver with Canada at the world junior hockey championship.
Another big numbers guy was Rob DeGagne, who recorded 288 points for the North Bay Centennials on 89 goals and 199 assists.
Meanwhile, former Kitchener great, David Latta, amassed 256 points in his time skating in major junior where he collected 123 markers and dished out 133 assists.
Right behind him sits Mike Tomlak, who totalled 255 points in 200 league matchups with the Cornwall Royals, highlighted by his 183 helpers.
Three other players from the area surpassed the 250-point plateau during their junior days. This includes Balmertown’s Cameron Mann, who registered 253 by notching 101 tallies and 152 assists with the Peterborough Petes.
Jason Jaspers and Peter Cava finished with 252 points apiece. Jaspers racked his up with the Sudbury Wolves as he found the back of the net on 116 occasions and played a role in 136 more.
Cava, meanwhile, suited up for both the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Sarnia Sting where he notched 91 goals and 161 assists in 221 league games.
Among those others from Thunder Bay who are part of the OHL’s 200-point brigade include:
Trevor Letowski, Sarnia Sting (248); Richard Borgo, Kitchener (241); Jeff Heerema, Sarnia (219); Jeremy Adduono, Sudbury (212); Eric Staal, Peterborough (209); Kale Kerbashian, London/St. Mike’s/Sarnia Sting (207) and Tom Pyatt, Saginaw (200).
Along with Adduono and Puhalski, other Lakehead products who had 200 or more points and averaged over a point-per-game in the OHL during the past five decades were:
Vern Stenlund, London (1.34); Letowski, Sarnia (1.33); Lynn Jorgenson, Toronto Marlboros (1.28); Tomlak, Cornwall (1.28); Jaspers, Sudbury (1.27); Bruce, Kitchener (1.26); Richards, Kitchener (1.25); DeGagne, North Bay (1.25); Latta, Kitchener (1.15); Heerema, Sarnia (1.14); Cava, Soo/Sarnia (1.14); Eric Staal, Peterborough (1.13); Mann, Peterborough (1.10) and Adduono, Sudbury (1.07).
Next week we’ll continue our look at local OHLers and their accomplishments.
Tom Annelin’s column appears weekly in The Chronicle-Journal. Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.