The Cornwall Royals existed as a Canadian major junior hockey team from 1969-70 to 1991-92. From the beginning until the end of the 1980-81 season, Cornwall was a member of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, despite being located in the province of Ontario. From 1981-82 to 1991-92, the team played in the Ontario Hockey League. The team was moved to Newmarket, Ontario for the 1992-93 season and they lasted there, as the Royals, for two seasons. In 1994-95, the franchise was moved again to their present location, Sarnia, Ontario, where they are known as the Sting.
The team enjoyed more success when they played in the Quebec league but produced great hockey players throughout their history. With Doug Gilmour’s recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the number of Hall of Famers that came out of the Cornwall Royals system was increased to three.
Goaltender Billy Smith played one season with the Royals in their inaugural season, 1969-70. He was the primary goalie, playing in 55 of the team’s 56 regular season games. Smith’s 4.52 goals against average that season sounds dismal according to today’s standards. However, in a season that saw Guy Lafleur score 103 goals in 56 games and Luc Simard score 90 in the same amount of matches, Billy’s numbers were good enough to earn a placement as the Second Team All-Star.
Billy Smith was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round of the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft, 59th overall. He played just five games with the Kings in 1971-72 and spent the rest of his career as a Hall of Fame goaltender with the New York Islanders, retiring after the 1988-89 season.
Dale Hawerchuk played two seasons with the Royals, 1979-80 and 1980-81. In his rookie season, he totalled 103 points. In his second season, he led the league with 81 goals and 102 assists for 183 points. In 1979-80, he won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as QMJHL playoffs MVP, contributing 45 points in 18 playoff games. He was also named the league’s rookie of the year. The following season, he was the CHL player of the year, the QMJHL MVP and won the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league’s top scorer.
Hawerchuk was the first overall pick in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, going to the Winnipeg Jets. Dale played in the National Hockey League from 1981-82 to 1996-97 with the Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers. He is one of three Winnipeg Jets in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Ray Sheppard played three seasons with the OHL Cornwall Royals from 1983-84 to 1985-86. In his final season, he scored 81 goals and assisted on 61 for 142 points. He won the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s MVP, the Eddie Powers Trophy as the league’s top scorer and the Jim Mahon Trophy as the top scoring right winger.
Sheppard was taken by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, 60th overall. Ray played in the NHL from 1987-88 to 1999-00 with the Sabres, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. He scored 52 goals with the Red Wings in 1993-94.
Owen Nolan played two seasons with the OHL Cornwall Royals, 1988-89 and 1989-90. He was awarded the Emms Family Award in his first season as OHL rookie of the year. In his second season, his 51 goals and 60 assists for 111 points in just 58 games earned him the Jim Mahon Trophy. A sign of the tough player that would grace the NHL in the future, Nolan also sat out 240 minutes in the penalty box during that second season.
Owen was the first overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, going to the Quebec Nordiques. He played in the NHL from 1990-91 to 2009-10 with the Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Minnesota North Stars. He spent this past season playing in Switzerland and is still not officially retired from hockey.
Doug Gilmour was part of the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame class. He was developed as a professional hockey player with the Cornwall Royals for three seasons from 1980-81 to 1982-83. In his first season, the team played out of the QMJHL. In his two OHL seasons, he tallied 119 and 177 points. The point total in his final season earned him the Eddie Powers Trophy and he was also the Red Tilson Trophy recipient.
Gilmour was a late pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, going in the seventh round, 134th overall. Doug played in the NHL from 1983-84 to 2002-03 with the Blues, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens. He exceeded the 100 point plateau on three occasions, once with St. Louis and twice with Toronto.