Friday, August 28th, 2009
People just want to see a winner
What's in a name?
Depends on whom you ask.
If you're the Woodstock Junior C hockey club, there are two options these days.
Stick with the Renegades, which owner Bill McLeod spent several thousand dollars to do three years ago, or revert back to the Navy Vets, which had 40 years of history before Steve Barber's broken promises left the team with more red ink than the goal line.
As the quotable former WWE wrestler The Rock used to say, it doesn't matter what your name is.
What hockey fans in this city want and deserve to see is a winning team.
And that doesn't mean simply finishing three or four games above .500 and getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Been there, done that.
Since the team's last real success -- winning the Niagara League in 2001-02 -- the Navy Vets/Renegades have won just one playoff series. That came in 2006-07, the team's last as the Navy Vets, in an upset seven-game thriller against the mighty Simcoe Storm.
By Game 6 of that series, there was a buzz felt in Southwood Arena that had been missing since capturing that last league title. In the second round against Norwich, at least 1,000 fans were in Southwood as the city rallied around a team in turmoil following Barber's inglorious exit.
The fans showed up in droves because there was something to cheer for on the ice, not the middle of the jersey.
There are always going to be differing opinions as to whether the team should be known as the Navy Vets or the Renegades.
McLeod had hinted privately in the past about someday returning to the blue and white of the Navy Vets. Having finally distanced himself from the legal landmines, however, he went public with his intentions this summer.
Wednesday's Bring Back the Navy Vets campaign launch was supposed to be a barometer of the public's interest in a return to the old guard.
McLeod said prior to the event it would take several hundred tickets sold to at least pay for new jerseys. Instead, about 200 tickets were purchased to watch the 1970s Vets play the '80s Vets, the '90s Vets to play the 2000s Vets, and the Renegades' exhibition opener against the Burford Bulldogs.
That doesn't mean there is no interest in a return of the Vets.
Many of the players said they supported such a move along with the creation of an alumni group.
"It should happen," former Navy Vet Cam Roberts said. "That's the right thing."
The backup goaltender for the team's only Ontario championship team in 1968-69 said many of his teammates felt the same.
"I don't know of anyone who wouldn't (want the change)."
McLeod said he has heard from both sides and has received e-mails from those wanting to stay the course.
But the debate surrounding this team shouldn't be focused on what is on a player's chest, but instead what lies beneath.
Maybe that's been the real problem.