The SHL Finals were a wild ride for the Quebec Tigres. They dropped the first three games, including wo at home, and appeared to be on their way to a sweep at the hands of the Anchorage Igloos’ postseason bulldozer. Then they won the next three games, a dramatic momentum swing that had the fans at Centre Citadelle dreaming of a title. Then, in a back-and-forth Game 7, Quebec came up just short.
In the locker room after the final game, the Tigres’ mood was slightly disappointed, but still positive. After all, this trip to the Finals – on the heels of their first-ever season with an above-.500 record – marks them as a team on the rise in an Eastern Division that seems up for grabs.
“We didn’t get the ultimate prize,” said LW Walt Camernitz, “but we proved that we belong. We proved that we can play at the highest level. That gives us a ton of confidence heading into next season.”
Although Quebec had home-ice advantage in the Finals, having finished with one more point than Anchorage in the regular season, the Tigres were widely considered the underdogs. The Igloos were making their third trip to the Finals in the last four seasons, and they’d just finished sweeping the mighty Michigan Gray Wolves in the Western playoff.
“Everyone was sure that we didn’t stand a chance against a talented veteran club like [the Igloos],” said D Ward Jones. “They thought we were fun and scrappy, but basically a fluke. We showed them that we weren’t.”
The outcome of the season was a vindication for Tigres coach Martin Delorme, who walked away from a strong Michigan squad to become the first coach of his home-province team. The Wolves went on to win the Vandy without him the following season, while Quebec languished in the basement. As recently as last season, when Delorme was feuding with his star player and attracting unwelcome attention for his personal foibles, it seemed as though the coach might have made a fatal mistake.
Now, though, Delorme is being hailed as a local hero. “When I was a boy, I dreamed of starring for the Canadiens, to be the next Guy Lafleur,” said Delorme. “Too bad I was not that good. But now I am living my dream in a different way.”
Delorme lauded his club for a valiant effort, and believes this run could be the building block for future greatness. “This series was the greatest test we have ever faced, and we showed our courage and strength,” said Delorme. “I do not expect this to be a one-year thing. We can learn our lessons from this experience and become even stronger.”