|League:||Ontario Hockey League|
|Home Arena:||WFCU Centre|
|Colours:||Blue, white, red |
|Head Coach:||Rocky Thompson (2015-16)|
|General Manager:||Warren Rychel (2015-16)|
|Affiliate(s):||LaSalle Vipers |
The Windsor Spitfires are a junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. The team is based in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The franchise was granted for the 1975–76 season and revived a previous OHA Jr. A Spitfires team which moved to become the Hamilton Tiger Cubs in 1953.
The Original Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey Association played Junior A hockey from 1945 to 1953. During this period the Spitfires reached the league finals twice, and featured four future Hockey Hall of Fame players. Prior to 1945 local junior hockey was divided up into the 6-team Windsor Junior Hockey League. The folding of the Spitfires occurred in 1953 as hockey interests in Windsor chose to focus their attention on the OHA Senior A Hockey League. This resulted in the founding of the Windsor Bulldogs. Eventually five former Spitfires laced up with the Bulldogs and one, Bobby Brown, won an Allan Cup with the team (1963). The Bulldogs folded in 1964 after one season in the International Hockey League.
The modern Windsor Spitfires started as a Junior A team which played in the Southern Ontario Junior A Hockey League from 1971–1975. The Spitfires won the 1973 Jack Oakes Trophy as league playoff champions and were regular season champions in 1974 and 1975, and were granted entry into the OMJHL (later known as the OHL) as an expansion franchise for the 1975–76 OMJHL season, after a 22 year hiatus.
The "Spits" as they are commonly known, won their first Emms division title in 1980 and reached the OHL finals, but lost to the Peterborough Petes. Ernie Godden set an all-time OHL record in 1980–81 scoring 87 goals. In 1984 Peter Karmanos, the founder and CEO of Compuware, bought the team and renamed them the Windsor Compuware Spitfires.
In a well-executed four-year plan, Windsor won the J. Ross Robertson Cup in 1987–88, defeating the Peterborough Petes for the OHL championship. The Compuware Spitfires won 35 of their last 36 games played, including being the first team to be undefeated in the OHL playoffs. Windsor also won 54 games and lost none, when leading after two periods. The Spitfires played in the 1988 Memorial Cup hosted in Chicoutimi, Quebec. Windsor lost in the championship game to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Karmanos sold the team to local construction magnate Steve Riolo after the 1988–89 season, and the team reverted back the Windsor Spitfires name and adopted their modern logo.
Conflict, renewal, tragedy
On October 18, 2005, Head Coach Moe Mantha was handed a 40 game suspension and later terminated without pay, for a hazing incident that occurred aboard a bus after a pre-season game versus the London Knights. An altercation involving players Steve Downie and Akim Aliu, in which Aliu lost four teeth, led to public exposure of the compulsive hazing within the Spitfires organization. Downie was traded to the Peterborough Petes, and Aliu was traded to the Sudbury Wolves.
On April 6, 2006, the Ontario Hockey League Board of Governors announced the approval of a new ownership group for the Windsor Spitfires. The group is composed of Bob Boughner, Warren Rychel and Peter Dobrich. All three men had history in Windsor with OHL hockey, and the group had expressed hope to move the team into a new arena. Boughner assumed the roles of President, CEO and head coach of the Spitfires, Rychel was named director of player development, and Dobrich the new business manager.
On February 18, 2008, team captain and Calgary Flames prospect Mickey Renaud died of an undetected heart condition in his Tecumseh, Ontario home. General Manager Warren Rychel referred to Renaud's death as "the biggest tragedy in Spitfire history". His number was retired by both the Spitfires and the Tecumseh Chiefs Junior B franchise that he played on before graduating to Major Junior. Mayor Eddie Francis named a road leading to the WFCU Centre in Renaud's honour, Mickey Renaud Way. At the 2009 OHL All-Star Game at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, OHL Commissioner David Branch announced that the Mickey Renaud Captain's Trophy would be awarded to the "team captain that best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice as well as hard work, passion and dedication to the game of hockey and their community" in honour of Renaud.
The Windsor Spitfires finished the 2008–09 season with 57 wins, 10 losses, and 1 shootout loss. This marked their best season in franchise history. With the first overall record in the Ontario Hockey League the Spitfires were awarded the Hamilton Spectator Trophy. The Spitfires also played their final games in the Windsor Arena. The Spits were undefeated at home in the Old Barn during the 2008–09 season. Mid-season they moved to the WFCU Centre. The Spitfires and their new arena played host to the 2009 All-Star Game. On May 12, Goalie Andrew Engelage broke the OHL record for most wins by a goaltender in a single season with 46 with a 5-1 win over the Plymouth Whalers.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Spitfires walked all over the Owen Sound Attack, taking the series in four games. In the next round, the Spits found the Plymouth Whalers to be a more formidable opponent. After trading off road wins, then trading off home wins, the Spits took Games 5 and 6 to clinch the series. In the Western Conference final, the Spits played their arch nemesis the London Knights. Led by John Tavares, the Knights were a tough opponent. Every game in the series went to overtime, but the Spitfires were victorious and won the series 4-games-to-1 to earn a berth to the OHL Final and take the Wayne Gretzky Trophy as Conference champions. The OHL Final began with a 10-1 victory for the Spitfires over the Eastern Conference's Brampton Battalion. The series became much tighter from there as the Spits took Game 2 5-3. The Battalion fought back in Game 3, winning 4-2. Game 4 belonged to the Spitfires as they took a 4-1 win and a 3-1 series lead. Game 5 was a tight affair, as the Spitfires took a 1-0 lead midway through the second period on the power play. Brampton tied the game up late in the third period to force overtime. At 2:09 of the first overtime period, Taylor Hall scored on the power play to win the Spitfires their second J. Ross Robertson Cup as league champions and a berth into the 2009 Memorial Cup. The victory was the Spitfires' first league title since the 1987–88 OHL season and marked their second time playing for the Memorial Cup. On May 9, Mayor of Windsor Eddie Francis awarded the team with the Key to the City in honour of their achievement.
At the 2009 Memorial Cup, the Spitfires dropped their first two games in Rimouski 3-2 in overtime to the Drummondville Voltigeurs and 5-4 to the Rimouski Océanic. In a do-or-die game, the Spitfires won the final game of the round robin 2-1 over the Kelowna Rockets to gain entry to the tie-breaker game. In the tie-breaker, Windsor defeated the hometown Océanic 6-4 powered by a third period natural hat-trick by Dale Mitchell. The tournament semi-final was between the Spitfires and the Voltigeurs. The Spitfires blew an early 2-0 lead, but won 3-2 in overtime of a goal by Adam Henrique to become the second team ever to play in the Memorial Cup final after playing in the tie-breaker game. In the final, the Spitfires again played the Rockets. The Spitfires scored on their first three shots and cruised to a 4-1 win to take their first ever Memorial Cup championship. Their victory marked the first time a team started with two losses in the Memorial Cup round robin and came back to win the championship. The feat also marks the first time that a team has survived the Memorial Cup tie-breaker game to win the championship. The Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy was awarded to Taylor Hall as Memorial Cup playoffs most valuable player. Both Ryan Ellis and Hall were elected to the tournament's All-Star Team. Throughout the Memorial Cup tournament, the Spitfires hung Mickey Renaud's jersey on their bench and the championship was won in Renaud's memory.
In the aftermath of the championship, the team was met at the Windsor Airport by a large contingent of local fans and was addressed by Mayor Eddie Francis. It was announced that the road to the new WFCU Centre would be renamed Memorial Cup Drive in honour of the victory.
The Spitfires came back in 2009–10 with a second straight 50-or-more win season, finishing with a record of 50 wins, 12 losses, 1 overtime loss, and 5 shootout losses. The record was good enough for the top seed in the Western Conference, but not good enough to clinch their second straight Hamilton Spectator Trophy (won by the Barrie Colts). For being the top team in their division, the Spitfires were awarded their second straight Bumbacco Trophy. Taylor Hall would tie Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers in the scoring lead and both were awarded the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as co-scoring champions. The Spitfires also played host to the CHL Top Prospects Game.
The Spitfires sent six players to the 2010 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Ryan Ellis, Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, and Greg Nemisz played for Silver Medallist Canada, Cam Fowler played for Gold Medallist United States, and Richard Panik played for Slovakia. At the end of the tournament, the Spitfires acquired defencemen Marc Cantin, forward Stephen Johnston and German goalie Philipp Grubauer from the Belleville Bulls in exchange for forwards Richard Panik and Austen Brassard, defencemen Paul Bezzo, goaltender Steve Gleeson, and a seventh round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection. Grubauer competed in the Division 1 World Junior Championships for Germany.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Spitfires swept the Erie Otters in four games. In the Conference semi-final, the Spitfires swept the Plymouth Whalers in four games. In the other semi-final, the Kitchener Rangers defeated the London Knights in seven games. With the Spitfires arch nemesis out of the playoffs, Windsor seemed to take the Rangers too easy at first and quickly found themselves down 3-games-to-none in the series. The Spitfires would become the third team in Ontario Hockey League history to come back from a three game deficit to win a series as they took the series in seven over the Rangers to win the conference and the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. In the league final, the Spitfires made quick work of a highly touted Barrie Colts squad, sweeping them in four games for the J. Ross Robertson Cup. Adam Henrique won the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as the playoff's most valuable player.
In May, the Spitfires travelled to Brandon, Manitoba for the 2010 Memorial Cup. In their first game, the Spitfires trampled the host Brandon Wheat Kings 9-3. In their second game, the Spitfires shocked the Western Hockey League champion Calgary Hitmen with a 6-2 win. With the win, the Spitfires had punched their ticket to the Memorial Cup final by way of tie-breakers. They did not need to defeat the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Moncton Wildcats, but did anyways 4-3 in overtime. In the tournament final, the Spitfires would play the Brandon Wheat Kings again. This time, the Spitfires defeated the Wheat Kings 9-1 en route to their second straight Memorial Cup as National Junior Hockey Champions. Their victory marked their 12th straight win since going down 0-3 to Kitchener, as they finished the playoffs with 20 wins and 3 losses. Taylor Hall won his second straight Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as Memorial Cup most valuable player, the first repeat winner in the trophy's history.
After two straight Memorial Cups, the Summer of 2010 saw leading scorer Taylor Hall go first overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to the Edmonton Oilers and Coach Bob Boughner accepted an assistant coaching job with the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets. The Spitfires have engaged in a massive overhaul involving many trades.
During the exhibition season, the Spitfires hosted the Czech Under-20 National Team. The Spitfires came back to win the game 5-4. Spitfires finished the exhibition schedule with 4 wins 1 loss and 1 tie.
After another successful season the Spits finished 4th in the Western Conference to advance to the playoffs. The Spitfires reached the Conference Final for the third consecutive year. Following two hard fought battles the Spits were eliminated from the playoffs for the first time in three years by the Owen Sound Attack. The Attack went on the win the OHL Championship.
After one season with the Columbus Blue Jackets as assistant coach, Bob Boughner returned to the Spitfires as Head Coach, with Bob Jones remaining on the staff as his assistant.
On August 10, 2012, the Spitfires were fined an unprecedented $400,000 CAD by the Ontario Hockey League and forfeited five first round OHL Priority Draft picks in 2013, 2014, and 2016 and second round picks in 2015 and 2017 for unspecified recruitment violations. The Spitfires claimed innocence to the recruitment violations and plan to appeal the decision.
On December 29, 2013, the Spitfires and the Saginaw Spirit played the first ever outdoor game in Ontario Hockey League history. The game was played at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Spitfires won the game 6-5 in front of a shortly lived Canadian Hockey League record of 25,749 spectators, surpassed later that night by the London Knights and Plymouth Whalers at the same venue.
The Windsor Compuware Spitfires won the Hamilton Spectator Trophy, the J. Ross Robertson Cup, and were the top-ranked junior team in Canada during the 1987–88 season.
Emms Division Playoff Champions
Emms Trophy Emms Division Champions
Bumbacco Trophy West Division Champions
SOJAHL Regular Season Champions
OHA Jr. A Frank L. Buckland Trophy
List of coaches with multiple seasons in parentheses.
- 1970–73 – Jerry Serviss
- 1973–75 – Wayne Maxner
- 1975–76 – Doug Johnston & Wayne Maxner
- 1976–80 – Wayne Maxner (8)
- 1980–81 – Ron Harris & Ron Carroll
- 1981–82 – Marcel Pronovost (2)
- 1982–83 – Marcel Pronovost, Doug Imrie, John Becanic
- 1983–84 – Bob Boucher, Terry McConnell, Wayne Maxner
- 1984–85 – Mark Craig
- 1985–86 – Tom Webster (8)
- 1986–87 – Tom Webster, Jim Rutherford, Tony McDonald
- 1987–89 – Tom Webster (8)
- 1989–91 – Brad Smith (3)
- 1991–92 – Brad Smith, Wayne Maxner, Dave Prpich (3)
- 1992–93 – Wayne Maxner, Kevin McIntosh
- 1993–94 – Shane Parker
- 1994–95 – Mike Kelly (5)
- 1995–96 – Mike Kelly & Paul Gillis
- 1996–97 – Paul Gillis (2)
- 1997–98 – Vern Stenlund, Dave Prpich, Tony Curtale
- 1998–99 – Tony Curtale (2) & Dave Prpich
- 1999–02 – Tom Webster (8)
- 2002–03 – Tom Webster & Mike Kelly
- 2003–04 – Steve Smith & Mike Kelly
- 2004–05 – Mike Kelly
- 2005–06 – Moe Mantha, Jr., Bill Bowler & D.J. Smith (interim co-coaches)
- 2006–10 – Bob Boughner
- 2010–11 – Bob Jones
- 2011–2015 - Bob Boughner
- 2015–Present - Rocky Thompson
There have been over 100 alumni of the OHA & OHL Junior A Spitfires who have graduated to play in the National Hockey League. Four of those alumni have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Those are:Glenn Hall, Marcel Pronovost, Terry Sawchuk, and Al Arbour as coach.
- 6 – Ryan Ellis
- 15 – Ernie Godden
- 18 – Mickey Renaud
- 23 – Scott Miller
- 4 – Marcel Pronovost
- 6 – Joel Quenneville
- 11 – Gordon Haidy
- 1973–74 – Scott Miller SOJHL Leading Scorer Award
- 1974–75 – John Tavella SOJHL Leading Scorer Award
- 1974–75 – Floyd St. Cyr SOJHL Top Goaltender Award
- 1980–81 – Ernie Godden Red Tilson Trophy OHL Most Outstanding Player
- 1987–88 – Darrin Shannon CHL Scholastic Player of the Year
- 1987–88 – Darrin Shannon Bobby Smith Trophy OHL Scholastic Player of the Year
- 1987–88 – Darryl Shannon Max Kaminsky Trophy OHL Most Outstanding Defenceman
- 1990–91 – Cory Stillman Emms Family Award OHL Rookie of the Year
- 1991–92 – Todd Warriner CHL Top Draft Prospect Award
- 1994–95 – Bill Bowler Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy OHL Overage Player of the Year.
- 1996–97 – Peter Sarno Emms Family Award OHL Rookie of the Year
- 1997–98 – Peter Sarno Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy OHL Scoring Champion
- 2000–01 – Jason Spezza CHL Top Draft Prospect Award
- 2002–03 – Kyle Wellwood William Hanley Trophy OHL Most Sportsmanlike Player
- 2002–03 – Kyle Wellwood CHL Sportsman of the Year
- 2007–08 – Bob Boughner Matt Leyden Trophy OHL Coach of the Year
- 2007–08 – Bob Boughner CHL Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award
- 2007–08 – Taylor Hall Emms Family Award OHL Rookie of the Year
- 2007–08 – Taylor Hall CHL Rookie of the Year
- 2007–08 – Ryan Ellis Bobby Smith Trophy OHL Scholastic Player of the Year
- 2008–09 – Bob Boughner Matt Leyden Trophy OHL Coach of the Year
- 2008–09 – Bob Boughner CHL Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award
- 2008–09 – Ryan Ellis Max Kaminsky Trophy OHL Most Outstanding Defenseman
- 2008–09 – Warren Rychel OHL Executive of the Year
- 2008–09 – Taylor Hall Wayne Gretzky 99 Award OHL Playoff Most Valuable Player
- 2008–09 – Taylor Hall Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy Memorial Cup Most Valuable Player
- 2008–09 – Ryan Ellis, Taylor Hall 2009 Memorial Cup All-Star Team
- 2009–10 – Taylor Hall Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy Co-OHL Scoring Champion
- 2009–10 – Derek Lanoue Roger Neilson Memorial Award OHL Top Academic College/University Player
- 2009–10 – Adam Henrique Wayne Gretzky 99 Award OHL Playoff Most Valuable Player
- 2009–10 - Taylor Hall Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy Memorial Cup Most Valuable Player
- 2009–10 - Taylor Hall Ed Chynoweth Trophy Memorial Cup Leading Scorer
- 2009–10 – Cam Fowler, Taylor Hall 2010 Memorial Cup All-Star Team
- 2010–11 – Derek Lanoue Roger Neilson Memorial Award OHL Top Academic College/University Player
- 2010–11 – Ryan Ellis Max Kaminsky Trophy OHL Most Outstanding Defenseman
- 2010–11 – Ryan Ellis Red Tilson Trophy OHL Most Outstanding Player (MVP)
- 2010–11 – Ryan Ellis Mickey Renaud Captain's Trophy Captain of the Year
- 2015–16 – Michael DiPietro F.W. "Dinty" Moore Trophy OHL Best Rookie Goaltender GAA
- 2015-16 – Mikhail Sergachev Max Kaminsky Trophy OHL Most Outstanding Defenseman
- SOJHL Spitfires 1971–1975
- Modern Spitfires 1975–present
Legend: OTL = Overtime loss, SL = Shootout loss
Uniforms and logos
The new logo features an aggressive, stylized WWII Spitfire aircraft set against clouds on a red, white and blue shield with the word "Spitfires" emblazoned prominently in the forefront. The logo preserves the team's primary colours of red and blue, but uses richer, more vibrant hues and adds silver and yellow as secondary colours.
The Spitfires worked with the Ontario Hockey League and Reebok - official supplier of uniforms to the OHL - in finalizing the new uniform. The new jerseys sport shoulder patches featuring the vintage Spitfire plane encircled by a gold laurel wreath and containing the number 18 to commemorate former Spitfires captain Mickey Renaud. Both the primary logo and shoulder patch designs were collaborations by Marcello Fontana and Shane Potvin, both senior art directors at Hargreaves Stewart.
The Windsor Spitfires use white jerseys on the road until Christmas and at home in the new year and the red jerseys at home until Christmas and on the road in the new year. The Spitfires briefly used a third jersey featuring a white, red and green colour scheme and an alternate logo featuring an airplane flying in front of the Ambassador Bridge. When the team was also known as the Compuware Spitfires the team's colours were brown and orange, with a logo featuring a Spitfire airplane. The original Spitfires logo featured a maple leaf.
The Spitfires formerly played at Windsor Arena, built in 1924 in downtown Windsor, Ontario. The arena was originally known as the "Border Cities Arena" and was once home to the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL prior to 1927. The Windsor Arena, nicknamed "The Barn," is the oldest operating facility in the Canadian Hockey League. It hosted the OHL All-Star game in 1978, and the Memorial Cup in 1981. On December 4, 2008, the Windsor Spitfires played their last game at "The Barn" against the Guelph Storm, winning 2-1. In the 12 games the Spitfires played at The Barn for the 2008-09 season, the Spitfires were perfect with 12 wins and no losses. Their first home loss of the season took place in their first game at the WFCU Centre.