The under-16 Brantford 99ers AA team brought home the gold medal in their division at the 2023 Canadian Cup in Montreal on Sunday, February 19, 2023.
Head coach Steven Gairns said that the path to the championship was anything but easy for the team.
“The journey was complicated for us,” Gairns said. “The team has been battling with injuries all season, including two season ending injuries, as well as three or four of the players sick with the flu. Despite this everyone did their best efforts to wear masks when appropriate to protect each other and communicate to make sure we had at least enough players to play each game.”
Despite the challenges, the coach said that the team rallied together to come home victorious.
“The resilience of this team stands out the most,” he said. “I’d like to say that the locker room was filled with enthusiasm and excitement, but truly it was like survival mode. Some of these boys were taking medicine and drinking Biosteel before games just to get through it. Their never quit attitude is admirable.”
Gairns said that this age group (’07) had never made the AA level in all its previous years until this year. Their win at the Canadian Cup is their second tournament championship, adding to the Silverstick Regional title.
In addition to focusing on their game, the tournament was a way for the team to bond ahead of their playoffs.
“This weekend was really about regrouping as a team,” he said. “We took time away from the games to arrange a go kart/paintball session of players vs coaches to increase our camaraderie. It was really about adding in some fun before heading into our playoff season.”
While navigating the challenges of injuries and illnesses, the team went undefeated at the tournament finishing with a 4-0-0 record, 15 goals for and two goals against. They claimed the title in a 2-1 win against the Sarnia Sting.
“It felt great to add another tournament win to our season,” he said. “It has created some momentum, we have been playing good hockey lately. A number of factors have weighed against us this season and brought down some morale. This tournament away, and coming home with the win has renewed that belief in the team that anything is possible when we work as a team.”