The talent, intensity and excitement of Junior ‘A’ hockey often goes under the radar. In 2002, the Halifax Oland Exports took the opportunity to get noticed when they became the first Nova Scotian team to win the Royal Bank Cup National Championship (RBC), a tournament that has featured players like Paul Kariya, Dany Heatley and Curtis Joseph.
From the beginning of the season, the Exports had one goal in mind, to win the RBC. But for Halifax, a team with 16 Nova Scotians, getting that chance as tournament host wasn’t enough. Determined to earn their spot they ploughed through the MJAHL and went undefeated in the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian Championship.
With a stigma often attached to the Maritimes by other parts of the country, no one expected the home-team Halifax to stack-up against Western powerhouses as the RBC began. The Exports would have to prove themselves early as they faced the Pacific and West representatives in their first two games. Halifax surprised the Western teams with two identical 4-3 overtime wins. On a drive that couldn’t be stopped, they won their next two games and finished on top of the round-robin standings with a 4-0 record.
The Exports faced Ottawa in the semi-finals and exulted in a battle of offence 9-7. Back facing highly skilled and sized OCN in the gold medal game, Halifax went down 1-0 in the first period. However, the Exports’ will was too great, they tied it in the second, went ahead in the third and clinched it with an empty-net goal and only 30 seconds remaining.
With a perfect 6-0 record and the whole country watching, the Halifax Oland Exports were national champions. Their hard-work, immense talent, unique team-chemistry and ability to step-up to any challenge led them to their title and with a post-season record of 22-1 they were undisputedly number one.