Minto 81’s manager Rick Fisk reflects on championship, time with team

PALMERSTON – After not winning a championship title since 2003, the Minto 81’s captured the inaugural Ontario Elite Hockey League (OEHL) Senior AA championship on March 30.

The OEHL’s inaugural season featured 10 teams from the former Western Ontario Athletic Association (WOAA) Senior AA loop.

Rick Fisk, who has served as manager of the Minto 81’s for 21 years, explained to the Community News there are now 11 teams in the division.

The Allan Cup

Fisk added that “big teams” such as the Dundas Real McCoys play for the Allan Cup every year in Canada.

“So now we’re considered AA, but starting next year, we can challenge to go into that tournament,” said Fisk.

“That’s part of the reason we went to the OHA league instead of WOAA.” 

The OEHL is a member of the Ontario Hockey Association or OHA.

Fisk explained that the Minto 81’s are “supposedly one level below” OHA teams like Dundas, which currently holds the Allan Cup championship title.

“We could challenge them to a playoff series. If we beat them, we would get to go to the Allan Cup. 

“So that’s something to look forward to and build on. And that gets the interest of these young guys to have the chance to play in something like that,” said Fisk.

OEHL Champs

The 81’s, who play out of Palmerston, defeated three teams to win the OEHL league: Seaforth in the first round, four games to two, Creemore in the semis 4-1, then Tavistock in the final (who the 81’s lost to in the first round last season). 

The 81’s defeated Tavistock four straight games in the final series, sealing the championship with a 5-2 win in game four, led by Riley Cribbin’s four-goal effort.

“In the final series, we had over 900 people in the stands,” said Fisk.

‘A great bunch’

Having been involved with the team for 25 years, including 21 as manager, Fisk has certainly witnessed “some ups and downs.”

However, he added, “We’ve built a hell of a hockey team.

“This is the best hockey team I’ve ever been involved with … this year the average age, I’m guessing, is 26/27. A lot of them are ex-Junior B or Junior A players or university players, and they just get along so well. It’s just a great bunch of young men.”

The 81’s team used to practice once a week, but now only play on weekends since many players are either still in university, or have jobs that may not be close to their home rink in Palmerston.

“If you talk to them, all of them will say they can’t wait until the weekend comes because they get together to play hockey,” Fisk said.

“They’ve just really gelled … they’re a great bunch of guys and we’re really fortunate. And then the coaching has been excellent. They’ve done a heck of a job.”