Spitfires fans play hooky to welcome hockey champions
Hundreds of ecstatic Windsor Spitfires fans skipped out on school and work Monday afternoon to welcome back the Memorial Cup champions as their plane touched down at Windsor Airport.
WINDSOR, Ont. — Hundreds of ecstatic Windsor Spitfires fans skipped out on school and work Monday afternoon to welcome back the Memorial Cup champions as their plane touched down at Windsor Airport.
Chants of “We’re No. 1” and “Go Spits Go” echoed across the tarmac as the plane taxied toward a red carpet that had been rolled out for the young hockey stars.
The boisterous crowd holding signs, flags and jerseys went wild when Spitfires captain Harry Young strolled off the plane with the Memorial Cup.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s good to be back and see all these people, it’s good to be back a champion,” said Young.
“I’m a hometown kid. I grew up watching the Spits and I know I would be in this crowd, too . . . We could hear the fans in Rimouski (Que.), believe me, and we knew they were behind us all the way.”
Fans converged on the players, seeking autographs, pictures and a chance to touch the trophy handed to the championship team in Canadian junior hockey.
“I can’t put it into words. I’m speechless,” said Ashley Doe, 17, after meeting Spitfires forward Justin Shugg, whose number she had painted on her face. “I love them and I’m proud of them and I hope they do it again next year.”
Doe and six of her classmates painted their faces red and blue and skipped class to welcome home their hockey heroes.
“They’re a bunch of terrific guys and they worked so hard,” said Barbara Symons, 69. “They fought for it and they deserve everything they get. I just love them. It’s wonderful.”
The hockey players saw video footage Sunday night of the celebrations, but were still surprised by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.
“The kids were looking out the window and seeing this kind of reception is just unbelievable for these guys. It shows you how crazy Windsor is for hockey and how long they’ve waited for a championship,” said head coach Bob Boughner.
“It’s nice to see everybody smiling and just enjoying it. It’s unbelievable to know that we could have that effect on people. It’s great.”
Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who boarded the plane to congratulate the players before they disembarked, said it was doubtful these young champions could fathom the good they had done for this city.
“Talk about coming at the right time . . . I don’t think these guys have any idea what this win and what this championship means to this community and what it means nationally. It allows us to raise our head up very, very high, with a tremendous amount of pride, and say, ‘We are from Windsor.’ ”