For the first time since the Second World War, the Ontario Hockey Association won`t be awarding the Clarence ‘Tubby’ Schmaltz Trophy to the best Junior C team in the province.
Due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockey Canada has cancelled all junior playoff games for the rest of the season.
The Napanee Raiders won’t have the opportunity to defend their championship title. The Raiders won the 2019 crown with a victory over the Grimsby Peach Kings 4-1.
The Raiders were one of the favourites to win the Schmaltz trophy for the second year in a row.
Ben Hagerman’s club finished in first place in the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s Tod Division with a record of 36-5-3.
“It was a huge disappointment for all of us,” said Raider’s general manager Adam Bramburger.
Napanee was off to a strong playoff start again this year. They swept the Gananoque Islanders in four straight games and led the Picton Pirates 2-0 in the Tod Division final.
“Our first priority has to be the safety of our players, staff, volunteers and spectators, so we respect the direction taken by Hockey Canada,” continued Bramburger.
“The players understand the situation but that does not make it any easier. We felt we had a good chance of winning it all once again.
“It’s a huge blow to the organization and the Napanee community, but the reality is there are more important things in the world than hockey.”
Justynn Steven has been the Raider’s captain for the past two seasons.
He, too, is disappointed but understands the reality of the situation.
“No words can describe how any of us felt when they told us the season was over,” said the talented 22-year-old forward.
The Kingston native spent five years with the organization and now has to accept the fact that his junior career has come to an end.
“It’s tough, but it is what it is,” continued Steven, who played 222 Junior C games with Napanee and scored 124 goals.
The St. Lawrence College student has a lifetime of memories playing with the Raiders.
“Crazy memories,” said Steven.
“Napanee is such a great organization. I wish them all the best in future years. I had so much fun playing with this team and of course winning the Schmaltz Cup championship last May is something I will never forget. Lifting that trophy over my head is something I will never, ever forget.”
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