The 67’s are gathering the majority of attention from sports fans in Ottawa.
And why not? The hockey club sits just two wins away from capturing its first OHL championship since 2001, when it defeated the Plymouth Whalers.
The 67’s most recent success following the 2000-01 season would then be an appearance in the 2005 OHL final against the London Knights. Which resulted in a London Knights championship.
It has been 14 years since the Ottawa 67’s sat in the OHL final.
As a result Ottawans have rallied behind their 67’s. Game two of the championship series against the Guelph Storm was the first sold out game at the TD Place arena since 2012 as well as Game five, providing two back-to-back attended crowds of 8,855.
“Best buzz I’ve seen in a long time,” said lifelong 67’s fan Tristan Ziebarth. “The fans have been waiting for a team this good for a while.”
And despite being on the brink of elimination this Ottawa 67’s team is good, finishing their 68 game-long regular season with 50 wins finishing first place overall in the OHL. Ottawa also swept their first, second, and third round playoff series, and starting off the final taking the first two games providing them a 14 game win streak in the playoffs, an OHL record.
“You can actually see the fans are coming out and the games are selling out so people are getting excited which is fun,” said Justin Dowd, a 23 year old 67’s fan who has been a supporter of the team since his fifth birthday. “Obviously I’m more pumped about this team, we know more of the names, more of the bigger names and guys are being signed to the NHL already.”
That list of NHL signed and drafted players on the Ottawa 67’s include Tye Felhaber, Sasha Chmelevski, Noel Hoefenmayer, Kevin Bahl, and Michael DiPietro.
With the boost of team success comes a more electric atmosphere not only in the rink but in the surrounding areas of the TD Place Arena.
“This is crazy, I’ve never seen this many people pre-game,” said John Lehocky a 67s fan before the puck drop for game five. “The outside is great and the bars are full, restaurants are full, streets are full, it’s great.”
But with all the buzz around the team, does that translate into faith that the Ottawa 67s can capture the J. Ross Robertson cup?
The majority of the fans seem to think so.
“I have a lot of faith in this team,” said Lehocky. “They had a really good record in the regular season, the playoff record has been great. You can’t expect to sweep the whole thing. Guelph has had a good team all year, it’s going to be fun to see how this finishes but I think the 67s can do it.”
“I got quite a bit (of faith) the team is pretty solid,” said 67’s fan Cass Walden who became a fan when he moved to Ottawa five years ago. “They gel really well together, I think that what makes a good championship team.”
However following their game 5 loss to the Guelph Storm the 67s trail the final series 3-2. A territory that has become all too familiar with the Storm their entire playoff run coming back from 2-0 series deficits in the second, third round, and now the final.
But fans are still standing behind their Ottawa 67’s. And though the team may be fighting their hardest bout of adversity in these playoffs there are still reasons to be optimistic.
“If they play like they did in the third period of game five, then yes I do believe there will be a game seven” said Ziebarth.