It was Halloween morning where parents and kids boarded a very comfortable Coach Canada bus for another great tournament in the US, to play against the very finest hockey players the US had to offer.
When the 2001 Toronto Marlboros travel, they do so on a “first-class” basis and even though they endured a long bus ride to the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills, the staff and management observed that the time travelling to the US seemed to just fly!
The first stop was the fantastic “Buca Di Peppo Restaurant,” where the team enjoyed great food and wonderful service. After a late dinner and hotel check-in, the team settled in for a good night’s sleep, to re-energize and get ready for the high-level hockey that awaited them.
Game 1 Marlboros vs. Madison Capitals. What a great start for the Marlboros! From the first puck drop, the team came out fast, winning face offs, skating hard, digging in the corners; exhibiting great “heads-up” play, completely dominating all three periods! The final result was a resounding 8-1 victory for the Marlboros!
Game 2: Marlboros vs. Little Caesars North. Just prior to taking to the ice, word quickly spread about Little Caesars North being ranked the #1 team in the US! The pressure was on and the excitement was palpable! Both teams brought their very best effort to the ice and the first period ended with the score being 2-2. With no goals scored by either team in the second period, the pressure was on to “bring it” in period #3. Although Little Caesars North eventually scored the winner, the final tally of 3-2, was in no way indicative of just how well the Marlboros jelled throughout the entire game.
Game 3 Marlboros vs. Chicago Young Americans. This Saturday morning game ended up with a very satisfying result. The Marlboros emerged as the victors, with a resounding 6-1 final tally. Systems were clicking, passes were crisp and on the tape, and on-ice communication was loud and clear! Dating back to the rigors of the two week August training camp at Nottawasaga, this is what the team has been working towards!
Game 4 Marlboros vs. Team Illinois Hockey. The Marlboros established control of the game early on, however, a very hot goalie prevented their best scoring efforts from materializing! It wasn’t until the second period that the Marlboros netted two great goals! As usual, Marlboro goaltending was outstanding! Achieving a shutout at this level of competition is truly a special combination of great “D,” forwards back-checking tenaciously, and truly outstanding net-minding!
Game 5 Marlboros vs. Chicago Mission. 3-1 for Chicago. Not the outcome the Marlboros set out to achieve, however, to watch this game from beginning to end, you would have been held “spell-bound,” entertained, and awed at the hockey prowess of just how commanding the Marlboros were, throughout the game. The score was certainly not indicative of the flow of play, and just how strong the Marlboros played. One would have thought that the arena was tilted one way… towards the offensive zone and the Chicago Mission net!
Most important, you would have witnessed the fact that, with this game and throughout the tournament, the 2001 Toronto Marlboros conducted themselves with a winning combination of immense hockey talent, high hockey IQ, tenacious work efforts, unstoppable enthusiasm, tremendous play execution, and great on-ice communication!
This was hockey at its best. This was the 2001 Toronto Marlboros at their very best, against a pool of competition drawn from over 330 million people! This was coaching and managing at its best, and most important: this was the finest example of good sportsmanship one could ever hope to witness.