By Fred Wallace
Today marks the 20th anniversary of a dark day in Owen Sound's Ontario Hockey League history, certainly a darker day for the Windsor Spitfires and the OHL itself.
On Sunday October 25th, 1998, the Owen Sound Platers were in Windsor for an early season game.
The Platers had started decently, around .500, while Windsor struggled out of the gate.
As a strategy, it was very clear, very early, that Spitfires were intent on flexing their muscles that day. And make no mistake, the Platers were a rugged and obliging group too.
By the midway point of the game there had been 4 fights, but the biggest indicator of what lay beneath came after Windsor's Jason Polera scored to make it 4-2.
On the ensuing faceoff at centre ice, Windsor WINGER Joey Sewell moved in to take the draw with no intention of swiping at the puck, but rather he took a swing at Platers centre Sean Avery.
The Spitfires strategy was paying off as they grabbed a 5-2 lead after 2 periods...and then all hell broke loose.
On an offside at the Windsor blueline, Mark Ridout of the Spits followed through and struck Avery.
Avery, who was considerably smaller, and a considerably better player than Ridout, retaliated by swinging his stick in the direction of Ridout's head.
Ridout snapped, understandably, and in an instance there were 4 fights on the ice, the most lopsided of which had Ridout severely pummelling Attack import Juri Golicic, since Ridout couldn't get to Avery who was being held by a linesmen.
The other linesman stopped Ridout's assault, but when the linesman departed for other bouts in the mess, Ridout resumed pounding Golicic.
This was too much, too long for Platers winger Adam Mair who left the bench and beelined for Ridout.
Technically, because Owen Sound now had an advantage in manpower in the fracas, Windsor's Jeff Kugel came onto the ice to even the numbers and smacked an unsuspecting Golicic twice from behind knocking him to the ice.
Unsatisfied with decking Juri Golicic, Kugel then roared around the ice chasing and threatening everyone in an Owen Sound uniform.
A week later, the OHL suspended Kugel for 25 games, but also stated he would not be allowed in the OHL even when the suspension ended, in essence, a lifetime ban.
The lifetime ban last until the next season, when Kugel had a brief 2 game stint with the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.
The simple fact was that Jeff Kugel couldn't play hockey- certainly not at the OHL level- and the incident 20 years ago remains the darkest on-ice OHL episode I can recall.