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Seven New Inductees onto the Men’s Hockey Wall of Honour

Steve Kopp

The 7th annual Wall of Honour induction ceremony for the men’s hockey program was held on Saturday night.  A total of six former players and one former assistant coach were honoured during the event which was held at the Great Hall on the campus of Western University.  That brings the total number of members of the Wall of Honour to 46.

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The night saw well over 100 guests who enjoyed a lovely meal and who had the opportunity to bid on some silent auction items.  Speeches were made by Western Sports and Recreation director Christine Stapleton, Mustang head coach Clarke Singer and by six different people who introduced the seven latest inductees.  And here they are.
Patrick Ouellet – Player, Assistant Coach, Builder
Ouellet is a native of Quebec, who was playing junior hockey, followed by one year of college hockey, in Alberta when he was recruited by head coach Clarke Singer and assistant coach Cam O’Donnell.  He came to Western and played four seasons for the Mustangs from 2006 to 2010.  Mustang teams went 75-25-3 over his four seasons, including the team’s third ever Queen’s Cup championship in the 2008-09 season, defeating McGill 2-1 in the title game at Thompson Arena (in a game heard live on Radio Western).
Ouellet was never the best skater or had the best shot.  But what he had was a drive and passion for the game that few players before him had.  Although a forward by nature, he could play any position, including defense, which he did for five games one season.  Whatever head coach Singer asked of Ouellet, he did without question.
Five years after his playing career with Western ended, Ouellet joined the coaching staff of the Mustangs, a position he still holds today, having just finished his 6th season as an assistant coach.  On top of that, Ouellet has help lead the 7th Man Club, an alumni group of former players who help organize alumni events and raise money for the program.  Ouellet becomes the first Wall of Honour inductee to be inductee as a player, coach and builder.
“I was in shock,” said Ouellet before the ceremony when remembering when coach Singer had told him he was being given the honour.  “I had a great time here, but I’m not sure I had a great career here. But I think it is more about maybe all the time I put in with coaching, being a member of the 7th man club to help fundraise for money.  It’s a tremendous honour to be on the Wall with a lot of great players who have gone through this program.”

Shawn Thompson – Player (2001-05)
Thompson, a native of Melville, Saskatchewan, might have been one of the first, if not the first person from Saskatchewan to play for the men’s hockey program.  He was a steady defencemen for the Mustangs from 2001 to 2005.  
In his first two seasons with the Mustangs, he never lost a game during the regular season, with the team going 46-0-2.  During his four-year career at Western, the team went 84-9-2.  During those first two undefeated seasons, the team would lose the Queen’s Cup championship game to UQTR in 2002 and then get bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Lakehead in two straight games in 2003.  Western would bounce back from that Queen’s Cup loss in 2002 to defeat UQTR in the Canadian championships by a score of 4-3 in triple overtime to capture the team’s first and only University Cup championship. In Thompson’s final year, 2004-05, he helped lead the team to its second ever Queen’s Cup with a 4-0 shutout over UQTR at Thompson (no relation) Arena.
Thompson was also chosen to play for Team Canada at the World University Winter Games in Austria in January, 2005. Unfortunately, Canada did not medal in hockey that year.
After graduation, Thompson played one year in Europe, first for the Bracknell Bees in the European Hockey league and then in Italy for Val Gardena HC.  He returned to North American and played one year in the ECHL for three different teams:  Reading, Bakersfield and Utah.  Realizing that his professional career was never going to lead to the NHL, he retired from the pro game and ended up working for a company that sold medical devices and equipment.
“I remember two things,” said Thompson when I asked him what he remembered about that championship game versus UQTR at Nationals in 2002.  “One, being really tired.  Two, they had a breakaway in overtime and our goalie Mike D’Alessandro (Wall of Honour, 2016) saved it. And the D-man coming off, I had to change with him, it was kind of a bad change, and I had to catch the guy and I wasn’t going to catch him. And I remember thinking we are going to lose, because it was one of their better players. But Mike stopped it.”
Cam O’Donnell – Assistant Coach (1998-2014)
O’Donnell began his career at Western in 1977 as an undergraduate student in the physical education program.  While he did not play hockey for the Mustangs, he was a varsity athlete as he played on the men’s rugby team for four years.  
After obtaining his master’s degree at Western, he headed to the University of Alberta for a PhD program.  When he completed that, he came back to Western for his post-doc and he never left.  It was while doing research on athlete’s reaction times that his connection to the hockey team started as some of his research subjects were hockey players.  He soon became friends with Barry Martinelli who was the head coach at the time.  After a few seasons as more of a consultant and as someone Martinelli could bounce ideas off, O’Donnell officially became one of the assistant coaches for the team in 1998, often being in charge of the power play.  The very next season, Clarke Singer became head coach and O’Donnell began a 15-year friendship and coaching relationship with him.
During his tenure as an assistant coach (which is a volunteer position by the way), the Mustangs appeared in seven Queen’s Cup finals (2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2012), winning two of them (2005, 2009).  The team also appeared in seven national championships, winning the University Cup once (2002) and winning two silver medals (2009, 2012).  During one 4-year span (2000 to 2004), Western had a staggering regular season record of 88-6-2, partially due to the team’s excellent power play, put together by O’Donnell.
O’Donnell would retire from coaching the Mustangs after the 2013-14 season.
“I think always for any type of honour, you’re a little surprised and humbled at the same time,” said O’Donnell before the ceremony.  “It’s kind of difficult on a team sport where everybody’s pulling together at the same time.  You never really think about yourself.  But it is still a great honour.”
John Walker – Player (1978-82)
Walker is a native of Sudbury who had a successful hockey career growing up, including winning a provincial title in 1972-73 while playing bantam hockey.  He played four years of major junior hockey.  His first three seasons were with the Sudbury Wolves where his seat in the dressing room was right beside Ron Duguay (who would go onto a distinguished NHL career with the New York Rangers).  In the 1975-76 season, the Wolves would play in the OHL final, but lose to the Hamilton Fincups.  In his final junior season, Walker played for the Kitchener Rangers where his roommate on the road was current London Knight’s head coach Dale Hunter.
After his junior days were over, and with no NHL prospects in sight, Walker chose to continue his hockey career at the university level and ended up being recruited by then Mustang head coach Ron Watson.  Walker would play at Western for four years, from 1978 to 1982.  His two regular line mates for most of those seasons were Bob and Brian Schnurr, both of whom are also on the Wall of Honour (along with their other brother Bill), making the three of them the first  line mates to make the Wall of Honour.
In Walker’s third year, he was admitted to the business school at Western and so played his final two years of hockey despite the demands of the business school program.  During the 1980-81 season (which coincidentally was the first season Radio Western started broadcasting Western hockey games), the Mustangs had a great team and went all the way to the Queen’s Cup final.  In that best-of-three final series, they faced off against the Queen’s Golden Gaels.  After losing the first game in Kingston, the Mustangs came back to Thompson Arena for game two, but lost a heartbreaker 6-5 in double overtime.
After his career at Western was over, Walker would graduate from the business school, ultimately becoming an accountant.  He worked for various companies and even set up his own firm in New York City.  He opened a branch office in London, which brought him back to Canada.
“For me, like I said, winning is such a rare thing,” said Walker after the ceremony when I asked him about the Queen’s Cup loss in 1981. “We competed hard.  I always believed that we had the best team on paper, but they had some great hockey players as well.  For me it was a very sour pill because it was more or less the last chance to do it because I knew a bunch of guys were leaving and the next year was not going to be great.  Yeah, it was tough.”
Chris Cathcart – Goalie (1973-75)
Cathcart grew up playing street hockey in his hometown of Guelph.  He was often the goalie and found out that he liked it.  As a direct result of that, he became a goalie when he started playing ice hockey. Roger Crozier and Glenn Hall were his hockey idols growing up.  
He began his university hockey career at Notre Dame, playing goal for the Fighting Irish from 1969 to 1973.  After graduating from Notre Dame, he decided to apply for an MBA program and was accepted into the business school at Western.  He was not recruited by Western or by head coach Ron Watson.  Instead, he just decided to show up at tryouts one day. This was even though one of his professors (his marketing professor) suggested strongly that he not play a varsity sport because it would be hard to combine the two with all the work that would be needed in his business school program.  
Ron Watson was impressed enough with Cathcart’s skills during the tryouts that he made the team and was the main goalie during his two years at Western.
During his first season, 1973-74, Western made the playoffs in the OUAA and faced off against the mighty Toronto Varsity Blues in the semi-finals.  Toronto, under head coach Tom Watt, had won the Queen’s Cup eight straight seasons and had beaten Western 8-1 in the Queen’s Cup final the year before.  In one of the greatest games in school history, the Mustangs beat the heavily favoured Blues by a score of 6-4.  Cathcart was the star, stopping 53 of the 57 shots he faced.
Unfortunately, Western could not keep the momentum going and lost to the Waterloo Warriors in the Queen’s Cup final.  It should be noted that Waterloo ended up going to Nationals, and with Toronto not there (7 national championships in the previous 8 years), the Warriors ended up winning the University Cup, the only championship in Waterloo’s history.  That could have been Western.
“In some ways because we had beaten Waterloo (earlier in the regular season), it was a bit anti-climatic after we beat U of T,” said Cathcart after the ceremony when remembering the loss to Waterloo in the Queen’s Cup final.  “I did not have a very good game and I regret that because Waterloo went all the way.  And I thought that was our pathway, we could have done that.  That was always a big disappointment.”
Cathcart would play one more year with Western, 1974-75, but he did not finish the season.  During a late season practice on the outdoor rink (there was no Thompson Arena back in those days), he took a puck square off his fiberglass facemask.  He was hit in the eye, his mask cracked and flew off his face.  Cathcart was rushed to university hospital with a detached retina and with the fear he could lose the eye.  Luckily, the treatment went well and the eye was saved.  But his goaltending career at Western was over.  Cathcart graduated from his MBA program and started working.  But he did ultimately continue playing goal for several years, albeit at the beer league level.
Bob Blackburn – Player (1963-70)
A native of Dresden, Ontario, Blackburn was a big imposing defenceman for Western for a total of seven seasons.  Yes, seven seasons.  How is that possible?
Blackburn arrived at Western in 1963.  There was no varsity hockey team at the time, but there was a team in their very first season that played at the club level.  Blackburn joined that team.  After one season as a club team, where they went 10-1 in an exhibition schedule, they were admitted to the OQAA (Ontario-Quebec athletic association) to begin play at the intercollegiate level for the 1964-65 season. Blackburn was on that first team.  The next season, 1965-66, Ron Watson would take over as head coach, a position he would hold for 20 seasons.  The team did very well during their first two seasons in the OQAA, did okay during the next two seasons and then did not do very well for Blackburn’s final two seasons.
Still, how was it that Blackburn could play for seven seasons (one with the club team and six with the varsity team)?  It was because there were no limits on eligibility for university athletes back in those days.  You only needed to be in some sort of academic program as a student (now the rules are such that a student only has a maximum of five years of eligibility).  After his first four years playing hockey for Western, Blackburn was still not sure what he wanted to do in life, even though his four-year undergraduate program was over.  And he was certainly not ready to give up university hockey because he was having too much fun.  So, he applied for, and got accepted into, Law School at Western.  That gave him three more years of university life, not too mention three more years of university hockey.
It was not all roses for the hockey program back in those days.  There was no indoor rink on campus.  That meant the team had to find local arenas to practice in or use the outdoor rink during the winter months.  That meant some cold practices, where the team would sometimes spend more time shovelling snow off the ice surface than actually practice on it.  
“What we did was we practiced on the outdoor rink and played all games at Treasure Island (later known as the London Gardens or Ice House),” said Blackburn before the ceremony.  “In the first few years, they’d run buses from University College for the students all the way out to the Gardens for a buck.  We used to get 2000, 2500 if we were playing U of T.  We did okay.  But there is nothing like being out in the middle of January, at 7:00 at night on an outdoor rink with a 30 mile an hour wind coming from the north!”
Reg Higgs – Player (1963-65), Assistant Coach (1980-81, 1991-95)
A native of Dresden, Ontario and a friend of fellow teammate and Wall of Honour recipient Bob Blackburn since childhood, Higgs arrived at Western in 1962.  One year later, he was part of the club team that was formed, which lead to full-fledged varsity status for the 1964-65 season.  Higgs played on that team, his last year playing for Western.
Higgs would remain in the game at various levels.  His connection to Western, or more like his re-connection to Western, came in the 1980-81 when as an assistant coach, helping the Mustangs make it all the way to the Queen’s Cup final (the third in team history) where they would lose in two straight games to Queen’s.  He would return to Western as head coach for one season, 1991-92, when coach Barry Martinelli was on sabbatical.  When Martinelli returned the following season, Higgs remained on his staff as an assistant coach until 1995.  He was part of the coaching staff that helped Western win their first ever Queen’s Cup in the 1994-95 season when they beat the Guelph Gryphons 5-4 (a year after losing to Guelph 2-1 in overtime in the 1993-94 Queen’s Cup game).
In between his stints with the Mustang hockey team, Higgs worked as an assistant coach for the New York Rangers (1985-86) and then was hired by Mike Keenan to be an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers (1986-88), which included a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1987.  The Flyers would lose in seven games to the Edmonton Oilers, in what would turn out to be Wayne Gretzky’s last cup victory.
Chris McCauley Award
There was one more award given out on Saturday night.  This award is name after Wall of Honour member Chris McCauley.  McCauley played for the Mustangs from 1983 to 1987.  He passed away on August 9, 2017 due to complications with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s desease) and had his number retired by the team before a game in October, 2017.
The award is given out to a current member of the Mustang hockey team who best exemplifies hard work, unselfish play, leadership and a team first mentality.
Kyle Petit was give this prestigious award this year.  Petit, a centreman, played for Western from 2017 to 2023 and was the captain this past season.  He was a skilled face off man, good on the penalty kill and led by example throughout his six seasons with the team (including the cancelled 2020-21 season due to Covid).