Fifty years is a long time for anything.
Imagine the things seen in that amount of time.
It was 50 years ago this year in fact that village merchant Joel Steele had one of his many ideas. To some it may have been harebrained, but to others, that was the spark of a single entity that helped to further tie Winchester and its communities together.
The Winchester Hawks have been chugging along since 1968, experiencing the highest of highs that junior hockey can offer in that time. And, of course, the team has seen its share of lows.
The early days saw the use of North Dundas District High School’s navy blue and white jerseys as the Hawks took flight. Games were played at the arena in Metcalfe, since Winchester didn’t even have its own facility at the time.
Fire claimed the Metcalfe structure during the 1969-1970 season, and the Hawks would roost in Kemptville until the village’s new rink opened in 1972.
It’s fitting that the Main Street facility now bears the name of team founder Steele, given the jockeying he and his associates did to simply keep the team afloat from day one.
And Steele stuck with it until the very end of his life, never forgetting just what the Hawks meant to him. The team’s architect won’t be forgotten.
There was also the collective tragedy, felt by not only the team and its executive, but the community as a whole when Hawks captain Chris “Cookie” Thompson was killed in an automobile accident just weeks after the opening of the 2006-2007 season.
It’s true that a lifetime is complete with both triumph and tragedy.
But there also comes the stories like that of longtime Winchester Press sports editor Al Van Bridger, who laced up during the Hawks’ inaugural season, and then went on to cover the team during his 49-year run at this newspaper.
Beyond that, there have been other flashes of brilliance, with Gill Cup banners hanging high in the rafters, and the 2010-2011 version of the Hawks bringing Winchester its greatest level of success – the Rideau-St. Lawrence Conference Championship.
League dynamics have certainly changed throughout the 50 years, with the competition growing evermore threatening as teams inside and outside Ottawa making up what is today known as the CCHL2, work to bolster their line-ups with the best talent.
The case is the same in Winchester, and the team works with the parts it is given.
It’s a retooling year for a Hawks squad that presently sits well outside playoff contention, but sparks of brilliance have shone through. The future appears bright, and on all accounts there will be one.
The team’s many sponsors continue to do their part to ensure the Hawks survival, and the executive keeps up with its ambitions for the team.
It’s these little things that make this community one that you’d want to live in.
Here’s to another 50… See you at the rink.