Winning a championship was a surreal moment for Newmarket Renegades captain Colton Lewis.
His U14AA team emerged victorious at the Ontario Minor Hockey Association provincial championship April 9, making it the top U14AA team in the province.
Waiting on the bench as the seconds ticked down on a 4-2 win in the finals, Lewis said it took a moment for the victory to kick in.
“Everyone was so happy. Emotions were high. We were all just so happy to win,” he said. “We were just so overwhelmed.”
The team travelled to Kingston earlier this month for the OMHA finals tournament. After a win and two ties in round-robin play, the squad managed a 3-2 overtime win in the semifinals against Halton Hills. They advanced to the final versus the LaSalle Sabres, coming out on top to secure the title.
Coach Dave Paterson said they set a goal to win the OMHA championship at the start of the year, and players and parents all bought into it.
“It took a lot of hard work and dedication,” he said. “Everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid, including the parents. And without the parents’ support, I don’t think you have the support of the players either.”
The effort included workouts on and off the ice, three days a week, Lewis said.
“We were almost at the rink more than our own home,” he said. “Seeing all that pay off was just a real pat on the back for our team."
Prior to this, the Newmarket Minor Hockey Association's last OMHA winners were the 2019-2020 midget AA team and Atom AE teams, whose seasons were cut short before the finals amidst the pandemic and were recognized as the co-OMHA winners in their respective divisions. Other than that, the association had not won an OMHA championship since 2010, Paterson said. Now, the organization has had two provincial winners this year, with the U16AA team also taking home the provincial title earlier this month.
Manager Krystie Robinson-Vincent, whose son Aiden plays on the team, said it was an amazing experience for the kids and the parents.
“My son’s been playing with most of these boys since about six and seven years old,” she said. “I watched these boys grow up, and they’re a great group of kids.”
The public reception has been great, with politicians and community members reaching out to the team, Robinson-Vincent added.
“We’ve had a lot of attention. The boys feel like celebrities, so it’s fantastic,” she said.
Much of the team can return next year, although at least three players will be lost (who) the team will miss, Paterson said.
With tryouts coming up, Lewis said he looks forward to trying to repeat the team’s feat next season.
“We’re really close to each other,” he said. “We all knew each other wanted it.”
Editor's Note, Aprtil 21, 2023: This article was altered to correct that the NMHA had OMHA champions in the 2019-20 season, cut short due to the pandemic.