Windsor Spitfires' defenceman Ryan Ellis made a point the other day of looking at each of his teammates knowing he wasn't going to see them again, not like this, as defending Memorial Cup champions, he said.
And today that thought is making a whole lot Canadian Hockey League teams happy.
After winning 50 regular-season games, another 16 in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs and four more at the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup, the Spitfires are once again the undisputed leaders of the pack; one of the best junior teams ever assembled.
Their embarrassingly efficient 9-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings, in the Wheaties' own Westman Place arena last night, gave the Spitfires a second consecutive national championship. It also earned them a slice of history. Only eight teams have now won back-to-back Memorial Cups and the Spitfires can hold their own with the 1994-95 Kamloops Blazers, 1980-81 Cornwall Royals or any of the repeat champs.
"To go through everything we have - losing our captain Mickey Renaud (who died of a heart disorder two years ago), getting back here again - this is spectacular," said Windsor defenceman Mark Cundari. "Everyone on this team will be friends for the rest of our lives."
While Windsor started wobbly and finished strong at last year's tournament, this year's performance was more polished from beginning to end. The Spitfires bombed the Wheat Kings in their tournament meeting, beat the Calgary Hitmen by four goals then edged the Moncton Wildcats in overtime.
They knew Brandon would be riding the emotional wave of its semi-final win over Calgary. With their hometown fans cheering them on, the Wheat Kings came hard in the opening minutes of last night's first period. But it was the Spitfires' Adam Henrique who scored the game's first goal before Eric Wellwood converted on a Brandon giveaway.
Taylor Hall made it 3-0 early in the second before Greg Nemisz's goal, which drew a review from the officials, proved to be the dagger in the heart. After that, the game was a Windsor coronation.
"It was just the way we did it," said Hall, who finished the tournament with nine points and was named MVP for the second year in a row, a Memorial Cup first. "It (the award) wasn't something I was focusing on before the tournament. I just wanted to contribute to the team."
The Spitfires answered every question, every challenge here. Their line-up featured 10 NHL draft picks and two players (Hall and defenceman Cam Fowler) who are expected to be taken in the first five picks of next month's draft. When scored on, they scored back. When given a break, they took full advantage.
"We find a way," said Spitfires' captain Harry Young. "I've been with these guys for four years and to win with them and finish it off this way, I couldn't ask for anything more."
"It's a special group," added Windsor head coach Bob Boughner.
Their rivals can only hope they've seen the last of this special bunch.