The Peterborough Petes were the last team to win the Robertson Cup in three consecutive seasons, from 1977-78 to 1979-80. The Robertson Cup is awarded to the playoff champion in the Ontario Hockey League. The trophy has roots back to 1893 and has been awarded to the top team in Ontario major junior hockey since the 1933-34 season.
Since the Petes last won in 1979-80, the Kitchener Rangers, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Windsor Spitfires and London Knights have each won twice in a row. London has potential to win a third in 2013-14, having won in both 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Previous to Peterborough, the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors were the last to win the trophy in three consecutive seasons, doing so in 1944-45, 1945-46 and 1946-47. The only other team to win three or more in a row was the Oshawa Generals who won seven straight from 1937-38 to 1943-44.
The Peterborough Petes finished second in the six team Leyden Division and second overall in what was then known as the OMJHL (Ontario Major Junior Hockey League). The name of the league was shortened to just Ontario Hockey League for the 1980-81 season, and remains that today. Peterborough totalled 87 points in 68 games, six points behind the Ottawa 67’s.
The team was coached by Gary Green. Green was in his first of two seasons behind the Peterborough bench. He would go on to coach parts of three seasons in the National Hockey League with the Washington Capitals from 1979-80 to 1981-82. The Petes were led offensively by future NHLer Keith Acton with 128 points during the regular season.
In the playoffs, the OMJHL was still two years away from playing overtime to decide a winner in a tied game. Therefore, each series was awarded to the first team to accumulate eight points. This meant that some matchups could go eight games, instead of the customary seven game limit. Peterborough beat out the Oshawa Generals in the opening round, nine points to three. The Ottawa 67’s fell to the Petes in the semi-finals, 9-3. In the finals, Peterborough took out the Hamilton Fincups, 8-6, to capture the Robertson Cup championship.
The 1978 Memorial Cup tournament was held jointly in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The present day format features four teams with two from the host league. In 1978, it was a three team tournament with just the champions from the WHL, OMJHL and QMJHL, the three teams that make up the Canadian Hockey League.
Peterborough was the top team in the round robin portion, beating the New Westminster Bruins twice and splitting their games with the Trois Rivieres Draveurs. However, when the Petes and Bruins met in the final game, it was New Westminster that prevailed with a 7-4 victory. The Bruins are the present day Kamloops Blazers and the Draveurs are the present day Sherbrooke Phoenix.
The Petes were awarded the Hamilton Spectator Trophy, finishing first overall in the OMJHL during the regular season. Peterborough totalled 95 points over the 68 game schedule. Gary Green was awarded the Matt Leyden Trophy as the league’s top coach. The team was led offensively by Tim Trimper with 108 points during the regular season. Future Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Larry Murphy played his first of two years with the club.
In the playoffs, Peterborough beat the Kingston Canadians, 9-5, in the quarter-finals. They then manhandled the Sudbury Wolves 8-2 in the semis. Peterborough met up with the Niagara Falls Flyers in the finals. After winning the first game of the series, Niagara Falls won the next three and had the Petes on the mat. Peterborough came back to win three straight to capture their second consecutive Robertson Cup.
The Memorial Cup was held at several locations in Quebec. All three teams had two wins and two losses in the round robin. Peterborough won the Canadian championship with an overtime win over the Brandon Wheat Kings in the final game. Once again, Trois Rivieres represented the QMJHL.
Iron Mike Keenan coached his only year in the OMJHL. Of course, Keenan went on to a lengthy career as a head coach in the NHL and will coach in Russia’s KHL for the 2013-14 season. The Petes once again finished first overall with another 95 point performance. The team was led offensively by Bill Gardner with 106 points in the regular season. Larry Murphy added 89 points in 68 games from the blue line.
In the opening round of the playoffs, Peterborough spotted the Sudbury Wolves a 2-1 lead before roaring back with three wins to capture the series. In the semi-finals, the Petes swept the Ottawa 67’s in four games. They did the same to the Windsor Spitfires in the finals to capture their third consecutive Robertson Cup.
The 1980 Memorial Cup was held jointly between Brandon, Manitoba and Regina, Saskatchewan. Peterborough was strong in the round robin, winning three and losing one. They met up with the Cornwall Royals of the QMJHL in the final game and lost 3-2 in overtime. The Royals were led by another future Hockey Hall of Fame member, Dale Hawerchuk. Cornwall soon after moved to the OHL and are the present day Sarnia Sting. The Regina Pats were the WHL representative at the Memorial Cup.