Jubilant as the mood was around the Napanee Raiders’ year end award banquet on Friday, there was also some teary-eyed goodbyes.
Morris Hart, team president for the past 25 seasons, announced this year would be his last in that role, giving way to Heather Shetler.
“The last 25 years in particular have been very important to the Hart family,” said Hart. “Both of our boys played for the Raiders. Our grandson, AP’ed. It doesn’t get any better. Jane (Hart’s wife) claims the only reason she came to the games is it was a night out and she might get something to eat either before or after the game.”
All kidding aside, he said his wife was an integral part of the team, helping with the stitching of jerseys and always supporting him through the years which spanned over 1,400 Raider hockey games.
“It’s been a great run, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it,” said Hart. “I’m still hanging around to look after the dressing room if the coaching staff will accept me.”
Given his tenure, Hart has overseen the highs and lows of the franchise.
“This team, this year was an exceptional team,” said Hart. “They had speed, a lot of determination, a lot of skill. Everyone that looked at our team and said ‘yes you’re great but come playoff time when the tough sledding is there, this team will likely fold.’ You proved everybody wrong, gentlemen.”
Also leaving is the coaching staff, led by Mike Hartwick with coaches Mat Goody and Jeff Foster.
“Being from Napanee, although I never played for the Napanee Raiders, I was at many of these banquets along with many of my good friends who played,” said Hartwick. “I was at the special one after they won (in 1993) and saw the rings that they were given, they were much nicer than anything I ever received playing junior hockey and how they were treated was first class, right from Day 1.”
Hartwick leaves after six years behind the bench.
“I’d like to thank Morris,” said Hartwick. “All your support, your sacrifice, this one’s for you Morris. We met six years ago at your house, you, myself and Adam (Bramburger, the team’s general manager). I remember you said ‘Mike, I want one more championship.’ This one’s for you.”
Hartwick then presented Hart with the game puck from their Game 5, series clinching victory against the Grimsby Peach Kings.
Hartwick will be replaced by former Raiders captain Ben Hagerman as head coach with Chris Brown as assistant coach.