2000 – Rimouski Oceanic
In the end, the 2000 Memorial Cup belonged to the QMJHL-champion Rimouski Oceanic.
But the tournament was overshadowed by the antics of the Barrie Colts, who were in as the OHL champions.
This was the first time for the tournament to be played in Atlantic Canada and the host Halifax Mooseheads went in off a 40-day layoff, having lost to Rimouski during the playoffs.
Also involved was the WHL-champion Kootenay Ice.
During the season, the Colts had spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the OHL office. Included were a couple of incidents where an import player entered the U.S. in the baggage compartment of the team bus.
When the Memorial Cup began, the Colts, under head coach Bill Stewart, walked out of the pre-tournament banquet just as CHL commissioner David Branch was beginning his remarks.
That and other silliness would result in the Colts being fined $5,000.
On top of that, they lost the May 20 tournament-opener, 5-2, to Halifax, which got three goals from Ramzi Abid.
Kootenay played in the next two games, losing 3-1 to Rimouski and 7-1 to Halifax. On May 23, Rimouski whipped Barrie, 7-2, leaving the Colts also at 0-2.
On May 24, Mike Henderson’s goal at 5:34 of the second OT period gave Barrie a 3-2 victory over Kootenay, which was eliminated.
The next day, Rimouski, under GM/head coach Doris Labonte, moved on to the final with a 5-3 victory over Halifax, which put the Mooseheads into a semifinal against the Colts, who posted a 6-3 victory on May 27.
One day before the final, forward Mike Jefferson, one of the Colts’ loose cannons, had taken aim at Rimouski sniper Brad Richards, arguably the CHL’s top player, telling the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that Richards “wouldn’t last five games in the OHL.”
Richards got the last laugh on May 28 when he scored two goals and set up two others — linemate Juraj Kolnik also scored twice — as the Oceanic dumped the Colts, 6-2, to win the Memorial Cup. Richards was named the tournament’s MVP.
Richards later told the Toronto Sun: “For sure that fired me up. When a guy like that says something like that, you have to wonder what he’s talking about. Hopefully, he’ll shut up and realize who I am.”
The Oceanic also got a big game from goaltender Sebastien Caron, who stopped 37 shots.
A few years later, veteran writer Terry Doyle reminisced about the 2000 tournament:
“After the championship game, Stewart was nowhere to be found. Media were looking for his post-game thoughts but he was long gone . . .”
Jefferson and captain Sheldon Keefe also left without speaking to the media.
Despite the Colts’ antics and the fact that the host team wasn’t in the final, the tournament drew 79,877 fans, the second-highest total since the round-robin format began in 1972.
2000 Rimouski Oceanic:
Jean-Francois Babin, Thatcher Bell, Jonathan Beaulieu, Jean-Philippe Briere, Sebastien Caron, Jan-Phillippe Cadieux, Alexis Castonguay, Ronnie DeContie, Aaron Johnson, Juraj Kolnik, Jacques Lariviere, Brent MacLellan, Benoit Martin, Michel Ouellet, Michel Periard, Nicolas Poirier, Brad Richards, Joe Rullier, Eric Salvail, Shawn Scanzano, Alexandre Tremblay, Rene Vydarebt, Doris Labonte (general manager and coach).
NHL: Richards won two Stanley Cups, earning Conn Smythe Trophy honours with the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning before hoisting the Cup again with the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks. He collected 932 points over 1,126 career NHL contests and won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2004.