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Hockey DayThe Staals look back fondly at their Peterborough days

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013 | 10:43 PM

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Eric Staal, left, and brother Jordan, right, are not happy with the funk their old junior team, the Peterborough Petes, have been in during the last three season. (Getty Images) Eric Staal, left, and brother Jordan, right, are not happy with the funk their old junior team, the Peterborough Petes, have been in during the last three season. (Getty Images)

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The Peterborough Petes have struggled through some difficult times in recent seasons, but that doesn't take away from the experiences that Eric and Jordan Staal enjoyed in the hockey-mad town.

Eric and Jordan Staal occasionally take a peek at the Ontario Hockey League standings and they don't like what they see these days.

Their old junior club, the Peterborough Petes, uncharacteristically has been mired in a three-season long slump. Unless the Petes can overcome a six-point deficit to the Kingston Frontenacs in the final 17 games of the season, they will miss the playoffs for a third straight season after missing only three times in the first 54 years of existence.

The current funk has been difficult to take for the hockey-mad town of Peterborough, Ont., the site of Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday.

"For sure, it has been disappointing to see what has happened there. It's such a storied franchise," Eric Staal said. Each Staal brother scored in the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre Monday night.

"One thing that seemed certain when I played there and my brother played there was that the Petes would contend every season," Eric added. "But I understand the organization is trying hard to make some changes. Hopefully, better times are ahead."

The Peterborough TPT's (the junior team's original name because the company that sponsored it was called Toronto Peterborough Transportation) were born in 1956 when the Kitchener Greenshirts moved East to the Central Ontario town.

Petes' impressive roster history

This list of players who have played for the Petes is impressive.

Bob Gainey, Keith Acton, Bob Berry, Bill and Barclay Plager, Doug Jarvis, Colin Campbell, John Garrett, Mickey and Dick Redmond, Greg Millen, Dave Reid, Larry Murphy, Dallas Eakins, Luke Richardson, Bob Errey, Steve Yzerman, Mike Ricci, Chris Pronger, Cameron Mann, Cory Stillman, Jamie Langenbrunner, the Staal brothers, Zach Bogosian were just a few.

The coaching list also is impressive: Scotty Bowman, Roger Neilson, Mike Keenan, Gary Green and Dick Todd.

In total, the Petes have put in more than 150 in the NHL. Wayne Gretzky played three games for Peterborough as a 15-year-old. My favourite, Steve Larmer, played a full season for his hometown as a 16-year-old before he was drafted by the Niagara Falls Flyers.

"It's inspiring when you see all the names who played for the Petes," said Jordan Staal, who played on the Petes' last OHL championship team in 2005-06. "You don't want to let the organization or the fans down. You know what they expect because of their history."

The Petes have won a record nine OHL titles, made a record nine visits to the Memorial Cup tournament and advanced a record six times to the Memorial Cup final. But Peterborough has celebrated only one Memorial Cup championship in 1979.

Rock bottom

This season hit rock bottom earlier when Dave Reid and Mike Pelino were fired as general manager and head coach, respectively. The Petes have slightly improved under interim GM Mike Oke and interim head coach Jody Hull, who played four seasons for the Petes in mid-1980s. They have gone 8-5-3 since Hull took over.

The Petes also lured former captain Dave Lorentz as a board member. Now principal at Lakefield and District Secondary School, Lorentz was part of the 1989 OHL championship team and he certainly is a respected member of the community.

So maybe the Petes are on the right track to restoring the storied franchise. The Staals certainly hope so.

"When I went to Peterborough [for the 2000-01 season] it was my first time away from home," said Eric, a Thunder Bay, Ont., native. "My parents were comfortable with the situation. I couldn't think of a better place to prepare myself for the NHL.

"[Then Petes GM] Jeff Twohey was great. My billets were great. The people in the city were so supportive and kind. I have nothing but fond memories of that place and, for me, it's neat to hear that Peterborough will be celebrated on Hockey Day in Canada." 

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