by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media)
After winning 33 straight games on home ice in an unbeaten, untied, 1984-85 regular season, they trailed the Peterborough Petes 3-1 in the eight-point, Ontario Hockey League championship series.
And that’s after the Petes, skating at the old Memorial Gardens, had secured a 3-3 tie in Game 1 before winning Game 2 by a 5-3 margin.
“We hadn’t lost at home all year, and Peterborough came into the Sault and set us on our butts,” recalled Hounds’ centre Wayne Groulx, the most-prolific scorer in franchise history.
But the series took a dramatic shift and the reason why, said Groulx, had nothing to do with strategy or preparation.
Groulx, who led the Hounds in scoring in each of his four seasons here, while producing franchise-record totals in goals, assists and points (187-290-477), spoke of how the team arrived for its morning skate at the Peterborough Memorial Centre prior to Game 3.
Head coach Terry Crisp wasn’t there yet.
“I don’t know how many people know this story,” said Groulx, who explained how the players put their equipment in the visitor’s dressing room.
Groulx, Hounds’ tough guy Bob Probert, captain Chris Felix and Chris Brant were first on the ice and they were planning to do some line rushes and 2-on-1s to begin getting ready for that night’s key game.
“We had a pail of pucks and Probert said to me: ‘Drop those f_____ing pucks in front of us. Watch this. I’m going to fire the first one and then you guys start rifling,’” the now 56-year-old recalled. “So I did what he’d asked.”
The Petes players were standing by their dressing room entrance, watching the Greyhounds.
“And they’ve got broad shoulders now because they’re ahead in the series,” Groulx added. “Probie drills a slap shot over the glass right at them. And then there’s three of us shooting at them, and then four of us, five of us, 10 of us, 14 of us shooting. We’re all shooting pucks over the glass at these guys. They went underneath the stands hiding, and we couldn’t find one of them.”
A Welland, Ont., native, who now calls Fort Erie, Ont., home, Groulx spoke of how the Soo players were “hooting and hollering,” and how their actions “set the rest of the series on fire, and look where it led us.”
The Greyhounds were 6-5 winners that night, before taking Game 4, 24 hours later, by a 5-2 margin. That gave the Soo a 5-3 lead in points. The Petes grabbed Game 5, before the Greyhounds closed the series with 4-3 and 5-2 wins, grabbing the franchise’s first OHL championship, 9-5.
“We had a strong core going into that season and then (general manager) Sam McMaster made some moves that put things together,” Groulx said, referring to deals that brought in the likes of Probert, Wayne Presley and netminder Scott Mosey. “We were so well-rounded. Each of us brought a little piece to the puzzle and we all played our roles to a tee.”
The ’84-’85 Greyhounds finished the regular season with a 54-11-1 (wins, losses, ties) record. They eliminated Kitchener and Hamilton in the playoffs before disposing of the Petes in the OHL finals.
Groulx (59-85-144), voted the league’s MVP, Graeme Bonar (66-71-137), defenceman Chris Felix (29-72-101), Mike Oliverio (38-48-86), Derek King (35-38-73) and Probert (20-52-72, in just 44 games with the Hounds) paced the attack. Felix, Jeff Beukeboom, Tim Hoover, Rob Zettler and Ken Sabourin led the defence. Marty Abrams was the team’s primary netminder.
Selected by the Soo in the second round (No. 28 overall) of the 1981 OHL draft, Groulx was asked about leading his team in scoring for all four of his seasons here.
He spoke of how “playing in the Sault was an awesome situation for me. I was fortunate to play with really-good players. And knock on wood, I stayed healthy. The guys I played with helped me get along and develop into the player I was.”
And, looking back, Groulx said he feels he helped those around him also develop their skills.
Asked about leading the franchise with a career total of 477 points, Groulx discussed how much he loved living and playing in the Sault, and how proud he is with where he stands in the record book.
“I’d also be honoured beyond belief if my all-time points record was recognized,” he added. “Playing four years with the same organization was great. I had an unbelievable billet family (Walter and Gayle Tynkaluk) and the fan support was great.”
However, he also went on to say he’s a “little bit disappointed there hasn’t been a little more recognition of the points record. To tell you the truth, I’ve been anticipating an email, a phone call, something. As a feat, I don’t think 477 points will ever be matched. But I know ownership has changed and management has changed.”
While enjoying great success here – Groulx had three seasons of at least 130 points – his relationship with head coach Terry Crisp was far from ideal. Crisp constantly found fault in Groulx’s game.
“I was not the prototypical Terry Crisp player,” said Groulx, who was a five-foot-nine, 170-pound finesse player. “The Terry Crisp player was Terry Tait, Rick Tocchet, Bob Probert and Jeff Beukeboom. He liked the Broad-Street Bullies type of guy.”
Groulx explained how he was an easy target for Crisp.
“I can hear him now, screaming my name from the bench,” Groulx said. “He was telling me to do this, do that, get off the ice. But I never complained. He needed me to bring out the offense and the skill of the tough guys around me. And I complemented their game.”
Did Crisp make Groulx a better player?
“I think so,” Groulx said. “He made me mentally tougher. He gave me a thick skin.”
But the Hounds all-time leading scorer admitted playing under Crisp wasn’t easy.
However, McMaster was always in his corner and Groulx spoke of the respect he has for the former GM.
A ninth-round selection of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1983 NHL draft, Groulx believes his lack of imposing size held him back.
He played in only one NHL game, but did have a highly-successful professional career in Austria.
Today, Groulx is approaching 22 years working as a freight broker for LPC Logistics. He and wife Colleen have two children. Their son, 21-year-old Daylon, is a former OHLer now playing at the University of Prince Edward Island. The couple’s daughter, Skylar, is 17.