Inductee Josh Soares and his family at the 2024 OJHL Hall of Fame ceremony in Oakville May 10. (Photo by Tim Bates/OJHL Images)

By Jim Mason/OJHL communications

Twenty-one years later, Josh Soares remembers that one Hamilton Kilty B’s fan as if time stood still.

Soares was on his way to leading the nation in scoring at the Jr. A level in 2002-03. He’d finish the season with 56 goals and 124 points from 48 games.

“I was able to get 50 goals in 38 games that year.” Soares said in an interview. “I remember a kid had a sign that said ‘One better than Gretzky’ and I was laughing. The little things like that were pretty cool.”

Soares was one of five men in the first class of honoured members inducted into the new Ontario Junior Hockey League Hall of Fame Friday. 

Check out the virtual hall at www.ojhlhalloffame.ca

The ceremony took place at 16 Miles Sports Complex in Oakville as part of Centennial Cup national Jr. A championship festivities.

“I guess not that I’m in (minor) hockey you see what parents do for their kids and all the time and effort they put in,” Soares told the crowd at the ceremony. “The money. The early mornings and the late nights. The ups and downs.”

He especially thanked his late father, Joe, his mom, Lil, and his wife, Amanda. They have two children, Luca, 6, and Ella,2.

“It was a great experience playing for the Hamilton Kilty B’s,” he said. “Every time I was out there, I’d look in the corner (of Mountain Arena now Dave Andreychuk Arena) and there’s my whole family in one section.”

The other members of the class of 2024 were former league commissioner Bob Hooper and ex-NHLers Paul Coffey, Adam Oates and Steve Thomas.

Soares played for his hometown Kilty B’s for five seasons (1998-2003). Selected to play in four league all-star games and one future stars game, he was West Division MVP, and a finalist for the Canadian Junior Hockey League player of the year during that magical 124-point season. 

At the University of Maine, Soares played in four NCAA tournaments, appearing in the Frozen Four three times. Soares amassed 112 points in college. He was named to the All New England team and the Hockey East second all star team during his senior season. 

After graduation in 2007, Soares signed a one-year free agent contract with the St. Louis Blues of the NHL. He played seven seasons of pro hockey in North America and Europe.

Like Soares, Hooper also pointed to family in accepting the honour. Both men had large contingents of relatives in attendance.

Coffey, Oates and Thomas were unable to attend.

“With hockey, you miss a lot of family stuff,” Hooper told the gathering. “I’d like to thank Elaine and Christine and Rob for all of the times they were there and I wasn’t there.”

The Hoopers celebrated their 62nd anniversary Sunday.

Inductee Bob Hooper and his family at the 2024 OJHL Hall of Fame ceremony in Oakville May 10. (Photo by Tim Bates/OJHL Images)

“A lot of people put a lot of hard work into the start up of this hockey league,” Hooper said in an interview. “To be recognized at this point is pretty good.”

His fondest memory came from mentoring the 2004 Aurora Tigers to the league’s first of three national championships.

“Because we had to fight to get into the Canadian Junior Hockey League,” he said, “and get it straightened out to put everybody on an even playing field.”

Hooper met with the Tigers before and during that season at the request of head coach Marty Williamson, now the coach at Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League.

“Marty’s team was notorious for taking a lot of penalties,” Hooper said. “I told them they had to get rid of all the penalties and they had to get guys who really wanted to play the game.”

“They got the players and that team was so disciplined. I’ve never seen a team even close to the way they were.” 

Hooper served as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Jr. A Hockey League, the precursor to the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He was the only league boss in Canada who didn’t receive a salary. 

Hooper was instrumental in expanding  the struggling Central Jr. B loop from 10 franchises into what was the 35-team, $7-million-per-year OJHL in 2006. 

Hooper was the recipient of the Ontario Hockey Association’s prestigious Gold Stick Award in 2010 and the Georgetown Hockey Heritage Award in 2007. He was recognized by the Ontario Hockey Federation in 2002 with its inaugural Junior Hockey Award, presented to an administrator who has had a hand as a builder and promoter of the sport. Hooper played and coached – from the age of 19 – youth hockey in Georgetown. He moved on to be an executive member of local junior, senior and intermediate-level clubs. 

He was president of the Georgetown Intermediate A Raiders team that won the Hardy Cup in 1982. Hooper was instrumental in  co-ordinating Georgetown’s hosting of the Dudley Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship tournament in 2005. 

Paul Coffey played for the North York Rangers in what was the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League in 1977-78. The 16-year-old defenceman accumulated 47 points (14 goals/33 assists) in 50 games.   The Hockey Hall of Famer’s resume includes:

  • Four Stanley Cup championships.
  • Two Canada Cup championships.
  • 396 goals and 1,135 assists for 1,531 points in 1,409 regular season NHL games. 
  • 196 points (59 goals/137 assists) in 194 Stanley Cup playoff contests.
  • A First or Second All-Star eight times.
  • Three  Norris Trophies

In 2004, Coffey was selected to be an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. OJHL fans will remember he coached the Pickering Panthers in 2014-15. Currently an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers, Coffey is with the Oilers for Game 2 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight.

Adam Oates was a point-getting machine with the Markham Waxers of the then Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League. During the 1981-82 campaign, Captain Oates led the OPJHL with 54 goals and 159 points, a league record. The previous season, Oates’ first at the Jr. A level, he tallied 89 points (36 goals/53 assists) in 43 games with the Waxers. Through 20 NHL seasons, Oates scored 341 goals and contributed a staggering 1,079 assists for a total of 1,420 points in 1,337 regular season NHL games. He also scored 42 goals and 114 assists for 156 points in 163 playoff contests. Oates played for Detroit, St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton. Recognized as one of the great passers in NHL history, Oates would lead the NHL in assists three times, finish in the top 10 12 times, and finish second only to Wayne Gretzky as the top assist man of the 1990s. Oates was a  five-time NHL All-Star Game participant and an NHL Second Team All-Star in 1991. Oates coached in the NHL from 2009-15. He was head coach of the Washington Capitals from 2012-14 and an assistant or associate coach with the New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Steve Thomas played two seasons for his hometown Markham Waxers. His second year was a massive and memorable one. Thomas and fellow future NHLer – and OJHL Hall of Famer – Adam Oates teamed up on a legendary line in Markham during  the 1981-82 campaign. Thomas finished with 68 goals – the fourth highest total in league history – and 125 points. After two seasons with the Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey League, the undrafted Thomas signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs in May of 1984. Thomas played 1,235 games in the NHL with the Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings. He scored 421 goals and assisted on 512. His coaching career also took root in the OJHL. Thomas was an assistant coach with the OJHL’s St. Michael’s Buzzers in 2007-08, ahead of five years as an assistant or development coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues. Oates (10), Thomas (16) and Ron Wilson (20) had their numbers retired by the Waxers, who suspended operations in 2012.

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