When you play for Dave Cameron, chances are good you'll compete for a championship. But, if recent history is any guide, you're probably not going to win it.
Cameron, the head coach of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, knows what it feels like to win, leading his team to the top of the OHL's Eastern Conference this season. But every time he competed in a final this year, he missed out on the celebration.
Cameron had perhaps the biggest year of his career this season, coaching teams in the world junior championship, the OHL final, and the Memorial Cup. But he went home empty handed each time.
"You never get used to the losing," Cameron said after his Majors lost 3-1 to the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Memorial Cup final Sunday night in Mississauga, Ont. "They say the losing toughens you, and right now I feel like a 10-cent steak to tell you the truth."
Cameron's teams have been so close, but they've also failed to finish off their opponents. The Canadian juniors collapsed in the third period of the gold medal game and lost 5-3 to Russia, and the Majors fell 3-2 in overtime of Game 7 of the OHL final against Owen Sound. On Sunday, the Majors never had the lead against the QMJHL champion Sea Dogs.
Whereas Team Canada and the Majors were favourites to win the world juniors and the OHL final, respectively, Cameron's troops were not pegged to hoist the Memorial Cup despite having home ice advantage.
'We deserved better'
Cameron exuded a calm acceptance after the final, but was clearly disappointed with the loss. Cameron said he doesn't blame his players for not being able to finish off their opponents.
"Losing sucks, you can say that," he said. "My team didn't leave anything on the ice. That doesn't eliminate the sick feeling and the losing, but it doesn't stay with you as long."
Cameron's not the only one who lost out on three championship titles this season. Majors captain Casey Cizikas was a member of the Canadian junior team and, like Cameron, has consistently missed out on the top prize.
Cizikas, Brett Flemming, Jordan Mayer, and Corey Bureau have spent their entire major junior careers playing in front of Cameron, who said he knows how much his players wanted the win.
"The kids care so much, they've put their heart and soul into this," he said. "Some of them have been with me for four years and that's why I've got the utmost respect for them and their group."
"I thought we deserved better but it didn't happen."
Sunday's game could be Cameron's last for the Majors. He may fill the vacant head coaching position with the NHL's Ottawa Senators if owner Eugene Melnyk, who also owns the Majors, gives him the nod.
Cameron has coached the Mississauga team since it moved from Toronto in 2006. Since he took on the responsibility, although not achieving the outcome he desired, he said he's thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.
"I love junior hockey. I love coaching in the OHL," he said. "I consider myself very lucky. I have an unbelievable owner who's allowed me to assemble an unbelievable staff and we have a ton of fun every day."
"There's not a bad day too often, you get to spend your time around a bunch of young gentlemen that are going to be very successful. It kind of energizes you."
While the Sea Dogs celebrated the first Memorial Cup championship in franchise history with friends and family on the Majors' home turf, the Mississauga locker room had a different atmosphere.
"You can't really say a whole lot right now because the emotion is there," Cameron said. "But the message I'll give them at the end of the day is that they had a chance to win an OHL championship and a chance to win the Memorial Cup."
"It didn't work out. Life's not always fair."