Moncton Wildcats
QMJHL
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Wildcats – the first season 1996-1997

The Moncton franchise in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had a new owner, a new name and a group of new young players to begin their first season.

Robert K. Irving was the owner and the astute Moncton businessman used a public relations firm to work with the fans to develop a team name that would best portray the image of a fiercely competitive organization.  From thousands of entries, “Wildcats” was the name selected and the logo of a roaring cat with mouth open and claws extended sent a strong message to opposing teams and a reason for fans to applaud.  The team sported new jerseys of red and white, with the powerful Cat as the dominant feature.

Knowing that goaltending is the last line of defence, Moncton drafted an outstanding Midget AAA prospect Jean-Francois Damphousse to be the team’s netminder. Along with JF, came a corps of young defencemen including the team’s first captain and Moncton native Mario Cormier.  Other blueliners included, Weston Fader, Daniel MacLeod, Mathieu Létourneau and Alexandre Vigneault

Damphousse, who became a favorite of the fans during his three year stay in Moncton, would go on to play in the AHL and the NHL.  “The 1996-97 season is probably the one that I learned the most in my career.  We were not the best team in the league but it wasn’t because of lack of effort.  We worked very hard and became a big family.”

Coach Bill Riley supported by a scouting staff headed by Peter Nevin added promising forwards Christian Daigle, Rémy Boudreau, Vincent Dionne, Sébastien Roger, Simon Laliberté, David Comeau, Martin Pouliot, Jarrod Thomas and Stephen Quirk.

With 7,605 fans jamming the Moncton Coliseum, the Wildcats roared to life in the home-opener on September 22, 1996, defeating Victoriaville 9-6.

Unfortunately the first game victory was not an indication of things to come.  The expansion Wildcats managed only 16 wins against 52 losses and 2 ties in their first season.  Sébastien Roger played in all 70 games and was the Wildcats leading point scorer with 37 goals and 32 assists.

Out of the playoffs, the Wildcats licked their losing wounds and prepared for season number two, determined with experience and new talent to reach the post season in the second year.

Hockey fans in South-Eastern New Brunswick took the Wildcats to heart with 188,560 creating an attendance record.

Team Photo


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TOP ROW: Jean Arsenault (Trainer), Alexandre Vigneault, Jean-Francois Lortie, Weston Fader, Vincent Dionne, Carl Benoit, Mike Baiani (Equipment Manager).

MIDDLE ROW: Charles Beattie, Daniel MacLeod, David Comeau, Rejean Dufour, Sebastien Roger, Jarrod Thomas, Chris O'Donnell, Ben Berthiaume, Simon Laliberte.

BOTTOM ROW: Chris Wilcox, Mathieu Letourneau, Bob Beers (Business Manager), Roland Melanson (Asst. Coach), Mario Cormier, Roland Collette (Coach), Bill Riley (Director-Hockey Operations), Remy Boudreau,
Jean-Francois Damphousse
.


QMJHL Standings 1996-97

FRANK DILIO DIVISION
Team
GP
W
L
T
OTL
PTS
GF
GA
Victoriaville 70 43 23 4 0 90 293 216
Shawinigan 70 41 24 5 0 87 277 232
Halifax 70 37 29 4 0 78 267 255
Chicoutimi 70 37 30 3 0 77 271 222
Rimouski 70 34 31 5 0 73 298 261
Beauport 70 24 44 2 0 50 216 284
Moncton 70 16 52 2 0 34 192 354
 
ROBERT LEBEL DIVISION
Team
GP
W
L
T
OTL
PTS
GF
GA
Hull 70 48 19 3 0 99 346 205
Granby 70 44 20 6 0 94 304 210
Val D'Or 70 40 28 2 0 82 268 230
Drummondville 70 36 33 1 0 73 305 287
Laval 70 27 40 3 0 57 260 314
Sherbrooke 70 24 45 1 0 49 206 283
Rouyn-Noranda 70 16 49 5 0 37 174 324

 

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