1981, 1984 Hardy Cup champs included names like Wilf MacDonald, Mike Ready, Yves Belanger, Kirk Firlotte
The Charlottetown Islanders hockey team, winners of two national intermediate A Hardy Cup championships in 1981 and 1984, are to be recognized next week with induction into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame.
Their victories were the first by an Island team on the national stage, and both came under very different circumstances.
The 1981 team dominated league play and won their championship in a bitter series on the road in Winnipeg, while the 1984 champions, containing many players from the 1981 triumph, won the title on home ice, despite having been assembled very late.
The Islanders were put together under the guidance of owner and general manager Mike McKinnon.
His vision allowed many top Island players to play high-level hockey in the province, and with Angie Carroll behind the bench, the 1980-81 team enjoyed a fine 20-5 record in the New Brunswick league, before sweeping Campbellton, N.B., to win the league series, and then Fredericton to take the Atlantic championship.
After another three-game sweep, this time against Timmins, Ont., to win the Eastern Canadian championship, the Islanders headed west to take on the North End Flyers of Winnipeg for the national title.
Those present still recall a series that was as tough and dirty as any they had played in, with the off-ice politics matching some of the brutal action in the rink.
The Islanders though were always a step ahead, and with the leadership of Wilf MacDonald, the skill of series MVP Mike Ready, and the goaltending of Yves Belanger, they swept their opponents and came back to a celebration and parade that is still talked about to this day.
The 1984 success was even more remarkable as the team only came together very late in the day. With a large number of returning players, and with Jamie Kennedy and Errol Thompson this time behind the bench, the Islanders first squared off against Riverview, and then Timmins again, before hosting the Moose Jaw Generals with the national title on the line. It is doubtful the old Charlottetown Forum had seen anything like it, as sellout crowds roared on the Islanders to a second title, this time backstopped by series MVP Kirk Firlotte, as the Charlottetown team took the cup after winning the series 4-1.
It was a golden era of senior hockey in this province, and one which will be rightly recognized next week with induction into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame.
Compiled by Sport P.E.I. communications officer Nick Murray
P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Where and when – Red Shores, Charlottetown, Friday, Sept. 27. Reception at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6:15 p.m.
Inductees – Hubert “Sock” MacDonald (athlete, softball and football); Sheila MacQuarrie (athlete, rifle shooting), Bill Ledwell (builder of sport), Charlottetown Islanders 1981 and 1984 (team, hockey).
Tickets – There are a few remaining seats. Contact Nick Murray at Sport P.E.I., 368-4547. Cost is $40.