Nfld. & Labrador

Kelly Cup win is like 'a dream' for Newfoundland Growlers

The Newfoundland Growlers made history Tuesday night as they became the first professional hockey team in the province to ever win a championship.

The Growlers beat the Toledo Walleye 4-3, making history in ECHL finals

James Melindy, captain of the Growlers, hoists the Kelly Cup above his head following the championship win Tuesday night. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

The Newfoundland Growlers made history Tuesday night as they became the first professional hockey team in the province to ever win a championship.

The Growlers beat the Toledo Walleye 4-3 on home ice to take home the ECHL Kelly Cup.

There was plenty of celebration in store for the Growlers Tuesday night.

"We had a few cases of champagne down there.… It was in the dozens," said Glenn Stanford, the team's chief operating officer.

Thousands of spectators were on their feet as the sixth game in the championship series wound down.

Owner Dean MacDonald said those fans were paramount to the team's success in their inaugural season.

"That arena last night … the fans were truly the seventh man. They brought it home," MacDonald told CBC's St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.

"The other team scored with three and a half minutes left to make it 4–3, and we were getting a little nervous. And the fans just stood up and started going, 'Let's go, Growlers,' and I think it gave our players a little extra juice.

"I've never seen that arena like that in my lifetime," he added.

Growlers owner Glenn Stanford, left, Dean MacDonald and Growlers superfan Tom Parsons stand outside CBC's St. John's studio with the Kelly Cup. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

The win was an emotional experience for everyone involved, MacDonald said, comparing it to the birth of his children.

"When you're a part of a team, it's like a band of brothers," he said.

"Glen and I were dancing in the halls last night. We couldn't believe we pulled this off. It's a dream."

Those emotions will carry on throughout the week, as the Growlers prepare for an anticipated celebration parade through downtown St. John's on Friday afternoon.

Growlers fans brought lots of creative signs, noisemakers and energy to the game Tuesday night. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

'It is fantastic'

The win won't be something local hockey fans will soon forget. Fans at the arena were ecstatic to see their team take home the trophy. 

"I can't describe it, I cannot describe it, so good, we finally won the cup," said Donna Brown, who has not missed a single home game.

"It's amazing. It's the loudest I have ever heard at Mile One. It is fantastic."

Lois Sharpe, who is from Newfoundland but lives in Ontario, flew home to be at the game. Wearing her Growlers jersey, she said the trip was definitely worth it.

"The energy here was absolutely amazing … absolutely phenomenal. The community is amazing."

Growlers fans sit on the edge of their seats. The arena was sold out. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Zach O'Brien, a Growlers forward who is from St. John's, was named the league's most valuable player. He said this season has been an experience he never thought he would get.

"I didn't think I was going to get the chance to play pro hockey at home, I've been away for so many years playing. When I got the chance last summer I was so happy and to be in this moment right now is so incredible," he said.

Standing on the ice following the buzzer, with a championship ball cap on his head, O'Brien said words couldn't describe the way he was feeling.

Fans young and old packed Mile One Centre on Tuesday evening to watch the Growlers beat the Toledo Walleye. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"At the beginning of the year we set out a goal. We knew we wanted a championship. We knew we had a special group of guys. To accomplish our goal is one of the best feelings in the world."

Growlers superfan Tom Parsons has seen the team evolve over the season, and said he's never seen anything like what he witnessed at the finals.

"I remember a couple months ago watching a game where they lost six-nothing," he said.

"The team that was on the ice last night? Totally different team. Unbelievable energy and play."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Meg Roberts and The St. John's Morning Show


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