Remembering the 1986 Corner Brook Royals

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Updated: January 20, 2014
1986 Corner Brook Royals | Newfoundland Hockey Talk

It was the dream team of senior hockey.  The 1986 Corner Brook Royals was a team that came together at the right time to take the Canadian senior hockey world by storm and walk away with the 1986 Allan Cup and become the first team to do so from the province.

The 1986 Corner Brook Royals was a team that had skill, speed, toughness and had one of the best senior goalies around in the form of Dave Matte.  Matte was always a little cocky and after the Royals won the Allan Cup he made the comment “I don’t know if a professional team could beat us.”

There’s where things about the 1986 Corner Brook Royals becomes a little grey around the Newfoundland Senior Hockey circles.  The 1980s was an era like no other.  The Newfoundland Senior League was filled with professional players and the Royals were no different.

The general manager of the team at that time was Cliff Gorman.  He filled the lineup with some of the best players to every play in the province.  The Royals forked out big bucks to secure the rights to the imports but the fans in Corner Brook didn’t mind.  The Humber Gardens was madness, with fans literally hanging from the rafters and the coveted “A-Team” cheering the local players and the professionals alike.

Corner Brook had built a winning hockey team and getting a ticket to the Royals game was practically impossible.  Everyone wanted to see Robbie Forbes and Tim Cranston speed up the ice, skating circles around the competition.  They took chances and pressed the play, knowing that a big strong defenseman named Steve McKenzie had their backs on the blue line and if things got out of hand physically, the Royals opposition had to fear the likes of Dan Cormier or Gus Greco dropping the gloves or just hammering you through the boards.  If everything else failed, you had “Okie” (Dave Matte) stonewalling the opposition between the pipes.

The win in the 1986 Allan Cup was one that came after a big disappointment in 1985.  In 1985 the Corner Brook Royals had won the Herder Memorial Trophy, defeating the Stephenville Jets and set the stage for a win in the ’85 Allan Cup.  They were confident they were going to win and made quick work of their first opponent, the Riverview Trappers from New Brunswick.  They then swept the series against the Hamilton-Dundas Hawks from Ontario.  The Humber Gardens was rocking.

The final would see the Thunder Bay Twins roll into town.  They were the defending champions and dropped the first three games of the best-of-seven series.  However, Thunderbay stormed back, winning the next three and in game 7, they stunned the powerhouse Corner Brook Royals with a 5-4 come-from-behind victory.

Gorman wanted a victory and quickly started to search for talent to fill the holes he identified after the 1985 loss.  That’s where Robbie Forbes came into play.  Forbes was the scoring leader with the University of New Brunswick; he had speed, grit and the skill that Gorman wanted in the lineup.  Forbes delivered, scoring 117 points with 53 goals and 64 assists.

Dipping into the Sudbury, Ontario ranks of hockey players, Dave Matte, became the Corner Brook Royals goalie.  Dan Cormier, a former line mate with Mario Lemieux in the QMJHL was added to the lineup along with Tim Cranston and Todd Stark.

The beefed up Corner Brook Royals took the 1986 Herder Memorial Trophy, defeating the Stephenville Jets in 6 games, setting the stage to make a run at the 1986 Allan Cup Championship.

They added four players from the Stephenville Jets including a big defenseman named Steve McKenzie, Sheldon Currie, Cal Dunville and goaltender Dan Longe.  McKenzie at the time was the best defenseman in the Newfoundland senior ranks and arguably one of the best defenseman who was not playing in the NHL at the time.  Sheldon Currie was one of the toughest players in the league at the time and he had a way of putting the puck in the net.  He was a fixture in front of the opposition goalies during the regular season play and made a great addition to the 1986 Corner Brook Royals (Allan Cup Edition).

In the 1986 Allan Cup, the Corner Brook Royals drew a tough first-round opponent in the Flamboro Motts Clamatoes from Ontario.  The team had former NHL players in their lineup and looked to be poised to win the whole tournament.  However, the Corner Brook Royals picked up a 5-2 win in the opening game of the series.  Their celebration was short lived when they lost game two by a score of 7-4 and game three by a score of 6-2.

The Royals battled back to take game four by a score of 5-2 but dug a giant hole for themselves falling 11-5 to the Ontario squad who took a 3-2 lead in the series.  Gus Greco stepped up in game six, scoring a pair of goals to take the Royals to a 8-4 win, knotting the series at 3-3.

Game seven saw the Royals battered and bruised.  They had players with casts and stitches but they knew if they wanted to win the Allan Cup they had to win this pivotal game.

The Corner Brook Royals scored first, scoring three goals in the opening 3 minutes of the game.  Cranston had 2 goals in the early onslaught.  Greco and Cormier also picked up a pair of goals and the Corner Brook Royals clung to an 8-5 victory.

Up next would be the Nelson B.C. Maple Leafs who came out of the Western International Hockey League as the champions.  The Royals ran up three quick wins in this series, winning by 6-4 in the opener, taking game two by a score of 6-5 and game three by a score of 5-2 (Stark had a hat trick in this game).  With the series lead of 3-0, the Royals came out and thumped the Maple Leafs 7-0 to take the series.  The only native Corner Brookers on the team, Tony Cuomo, Ed Kearsey and Craig Kennedy (team captain), each scored two-goals, with Cranston scoring a single marker.

The Corner Brook Royals would go on to win the Herder again in 1988 but the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League was in big troubles.  The high cost of bringing in the imports and the operating the teams was the downfall of the league.  After 1989, the league folded, leaving fans to remember the 1986 Corner Brook Royals as one of the best senior hockey teams ever assembled.

Members of the 1986 Corner Brook Royals Allan Cup Champions were as follows:

1986 Corner Brook Royals | Newfoundland Hockey Talk

Photo Compliments – Corner Brook Royals
Left (front): Gerry Barry, Ed Kearsey, Dave Matte, Gus Greco and Danny Longe; (middle) assistant coach Terry Gillam, Danny Cormier, Byron Rideout, Sheldon Currie, Craig Kennedy, Gilbert Longpre, Darryl Ulrich, Tony Cuomo, trainer Paul Hicks and head coach Mike Anderson;
Left (back): Don Bennett, Steve McKenzie, Rob Forbes, Todd Stark and Stan Hennigar. Missing from photo are Tim Cranston, Cal Dunville, Bill Breen, Bob O’Neil, Ken Mercer, Ray Baird and Mark Jeffrey.

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