(Originally Written in 2018)
The City of Moncton was starving for a championship. It was 2005-06, and after several dramatic playoff runs the Moncton Wildcats were focused to reach the pinnacle of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League entering their 10th anniversary season.
The Wildcats solidified themselves in the league’s upper by building a culture of competitiveness within the cyclical nature of junior hockey.
When it was announced that Moncton would host the 2006 Memorial Cup, the franchise was poised to become a champion.
“It was a tremendous team,” said Danny Flynn who served as an assistant to Head Coach Ted Nolan.
“We worked really hard in the off season to build a competitive host for the Memorial Cup, but we also wanted to be able to go in the front door and win the league and really have a good shot at winning the Cups,” Flynn added.
With Nolan, Flynn and Dan Lacroix at the helm,the Wildcats put up staggering numbers throughout the regular season with one of the most talentedrosters they had everassembled.
The Wildcats were driven that season to hoist the President Cup for the first time in franchise history and enter the Memorial Cup on home ice as the QMJHL champion. They brought in Andrew MacDonald, Keith Yandle, Philippe Dupuis and Luc Bourdon to help put them over the top.
The Wildcats defeated the Quebec Remparts in six games and raised the President Cup in front of an electric sellout crowd at the Coliseum.
“Being the first one to lift the President Cup, at home, in front of a sold out Coliseum, in front of our wonderful fans was a great honour,” said then team captain Chris Gaudet. “That championship season was by far the best year of my hockey career,” added Gaudet.
“It was a really close-knit group of kids with great leadership and solid goaltending,” said Flynn.
“It was one of the strongest teams that I have been a part of. Like any championship team, the team leadership and chemistry was really strong,” explained Flynn.
“My experience with the Wildcats is one I will never forget,” said Matt Marquardt a North Bay, Ontario product.
Flynn and Nolan signed the 6”2 200 pound forward as a free agent before the start of the 2005-06 season. Marquardt had put up fantastic numbers the previous year in Jr. A with the Brockville Braves of the Central Canada Hockey League. The rangy power forward quickly became a fan favourite in Moncton and possessed an impressive two-way game, which fit Nolan and Flynn’s system perfectly.
Marquardt provided energy on a very skilled laden team in 2005-2006. Marquardt had the ability as a rookie to play up and down the line up in his first full season in the QMJHL.
Marquardt fondly remembers the special bond that was formed with the 2006 President Cup Championship team. “I had the honour of playing, bonding and winning with the best teammates and friends a guy could ask for,” Marquardt said. “I grew so much as a player, but most importantly as a person. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mr. Irving and my Wildcat family,” explained Marquardt.
“The Coliseum was absolutely electric ever game. I thrived on the roar of the Wildcats faithful,” Marquardt added.
“I often stop and think about the moment we won the President Cup, it was pandemonium.”
“Just when I thought that building couldn’t get any better, we hosted the Memorial Cup. The energy in the Coliseum was incredible,” said Marquardt. “There’s nothing like scoring a goal in the Moncton Coliseum,” Marquardt added.
Marquardt may lay claim to the most important goal in Wildcats franchise history during the Memorial Cup semi-finals. The Wildcats facedtheir Quebec league rivals again – in the Memorial Cup final -and came up agonizingly short in their bid to claimjunior hockey’sultimate prize.
Still, that 2005-2006 club is fondly remembered in the memories of the Wildcats fans and city.
“That team was incredible, so many talented players, but it was the leadership on that team that left a lasting impression,” said former Wildcat forward Matt Eagles.
“Our Memorial Cup experience was the highlight of my hockey career.Having the entire city behind us was very special, something that I will never forget,” Eagles added.
“To play with such a tight knit group of guys, from the coaching staff to the training staff everything clicked that year for us,” said skilled American power forward Adam Pineault.
“When we won the President Cup you could see the excitement everyone had in the City for the Memorial Cup,” remembered Pineault.
“Playing in the Memorial Cup in front of your home town crowd was one of the greatest memories I have playing hockey,” said Pineault, who had 81 points in 77 regular season and playoff games combined during the 2005-06 season.
Pineault remembers driving downtown with his father after beating the Peterborough Petes at the Mem Cup. “My dad and I could hear the chant, Go Cats Go on Main street, he turned to me and said, ‘enjoy every minute of this.’”Pineault said. “Looking back, I know what he meant,” Pineault said.
Champions are forever, but the Wildcats faithful wouldn’t have to wait very long to claim another “Q” league championship.
Poised for a Another Run
Fast-forward four seasons.
The Moncton Wildcats were poised for another run at league supremacy.
Danny Flynn returned behind the bench, this time as head coachand the Wildcats found themselves vying for another championship, this time against interprovincialrivals the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Kelsey Tessier, Gabriel Bourque, Mark Barberio, Brandon Gormley, Nic Deschamps and Nic Riopel were some of the standouts on that squad. “We made some aggressive moves with Tessier and Bourque, but we also brought Nicolas Deschamps in and he was a really strong addition,” said Danny Flynn.
“It was unfortunate he got hurt in the playoffs and we didn’t have him for a lot of the playoffs or the Memorial Cup,” Flynn added.
“It was a team again that had great chemistry, character and leadership that year,” said Flynn. David Savard was CHL Defencemen of the Year and was a leader of a real solid blueline with Barberio and Gormley.”
“We got Nic Riopel back from the American league at Christmas and that solidified our goaltending. “We were able to take good team, a close-knit team and made some real good acquisitions at the deadline that really improved our team,” explained Flynn.
“From my very first junior camp at 16 years old, all the fans welcomed me to the city and organization,” said Nic Riopel, who considers his time in Moncton the best four years of his life, hockey wise.
“They were all great people. They made me feel right at home in Moncton. The atmosphere in Moncton, especially during the playoffs with everyone wearing either white or red, was really intimidating for the other teams coming into the Coliseum.”
The Wildcats would claim their second President Cup in four years as they beat the Sea Dogs in six games in front of another sellout.
“In the four rounds to win the President Cup we had to beat three teams that had 100 point seasons, and played round three and four without home ice and without Nic Deschamps,” said Flynn.
Flynn considers the two championship seasons as major accomplishments. “It’s atough trophy to win, and almost half the franchises in the league haven’t won it once, so to be able to be part of two championship teams is something that I’m very proud of,” he said.
Long-time Wildcats equipment manager Serge LeBlanc believes both teams were unique, but equally as special. “To see the kids that grew up in the organization and seeing them go through all kinds of highs and lows during their career and then to see them lift the Cup was truly amazing to be a part of,” said Leblanc, who had been with the club for 11 seasons.
Former Wildcats assistant coach and current Vancouver Canucks video Coach, Darryl Seward believed the addition
s of Tessier and Bourque at Christmas that year was crucial. “That year was really special, we had a lot players for a few years and at Christmas when we added “Tess” and “Bourquie”, it really pulled the group together”
“The fans in Moncton are awesome,” Seward said.“They are a knowledgeable fan base and they support the team without exception. Theplayers should be very thankful they have fans like that.”
“We had a lot of great players that year and I’ve been on a lot of teams over the years, but that was a really close knit team, guys really cared for each other and you could see it on the ice, we all genuinely wanted success and we played for each other,” said Wildcats star defencemen Brandon Gormley.
Alex Saulnier was only 16-years-old during the 2010 Championship run but that experience influenced the remainder of his hockey career.
“It was a dream come true. I was able to learn a lot from the older guys on that team. Itallowed me to develop immensely as a player,” said Saulnier.
“The atmosphere in the Coliseum was unbelievable. Weonly lost a few games during that Cup run and I think the fans were a big reason why,” added Saulnier.
The 2006 and 2010 President Cup Champion Moncton Wildcats Teams will live on in Hub City hockey lore.