A Tale of the Mighty Platers

The following article (A Tale of the 'Mighty Platers') appeared in the January 1995 issue of Plating & Surface Finishing - Journal of the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society, Inc.

Like the "Mighty Ducks" of Disney fame, the Guelph Platers Hockey Club of Canada turned out to be a real Cinderella story.  This young hockey club overcame tremendous odds to prove they were the best.

Ice hockey is a familiar part of life in Canada.  Kids start early, in much the same way as children in the U.S. play little league baseball.  Organized hockey, however, is structured differently.  Companies and individuals don't just sponsor teams, they serve as organizers and owners.  That gives the sport a look of professionalism long before most of the young outstanding players ever reach the National Hockey League (NHL).

The organization of hockey in Canada starts in the neighborhoods and reaches into the NHL.  Each system serves as a feeder for players to the next level.  When the good players reach the minor league, they enter an arrangement similar to a student athlete in the U.S. attending college on an athletic scholarship.  The team that signs him provides scholastic development, as well as athletic training.

The Birth of the Platers

Joe Holody started Holody Electro-Plating Ltd., in 1955.  He founded the business in Guelph, Ontario, Canada - the town where he grew up.  Plating is a familiar business in Guelph, because it is closely associated with manufacturing in the area.

During his youth, Joe Holody played ice hockey and came to love the sport.  As a young business man in the 1960's, he decided to give something back to the community by becoming involved with a local junior hockey team.  At first, he was part owner.  As the years passed, he became more involved.  In 1975, Holody became whole owner of the local junior hockey club.  He renamed the team the "Guelph Holody Platers," because he owned an electroplating shop.  Even the team logo became an electrical charge, symbolized by two side-by-side lightning bolts.

"We mostly had young players from Guelph and the surrounding area," said Holody.  "We built a good organization and our team was very successful."  The Guelph team became the first Ontario Hockey Association Tier II Junior A team to win back-to-back national championships in the division.  "Fans began to expect us to win," Holody said.  "Many of our friends and advisers encouraged us to take the next step to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Major 'A' amateur division."  The Guelph team would become a part of an organization known as one of the best sources of outstanding young talent for the NHL.

Starting in a New Division

Holody's team moved to the top amateur division of the CHL in 1982.  Because of a rule limiting the use of commercial names in a team name, the Guelph Holody Platers became the Guelph Platers Hockey Club.  Holody's son, Rob, who now serves as vice president of Holody Electro-Plating Ltd., was a player for the club and would take a personal interest in its future.  "That first year we set a record for the worst win-loss ratio ever by an expansion team," said Joe Holody.  "I don't think we won but four or five games."

That was the first year.  There would be other records in the team's future.  It would turn out to be one of the most successful teams ever in the league.

From the Bottom to the Top in Four

In the summer of 1985, the Guelph Platers participated in their fourth Ontario Hockey League (OHL) priority selections draft in Toronto.  The selections were being completed by the club's newly appointed general manager, Rob Holody, son of owner Joe Holody.

Rob Holody was no stranger to hockey.  As a player, he moved through the ranks of the Guelph minor hockey system and moved on to play Junior B hockey with the Hespeler Shamrocks.  His junior career ended in 1981-82 when, as captain, he helped lead the Holody Platers to the National Tier II Finals against the Prince Albert Raiders.  After his junior career, Rob played two seasons with the Sir Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks of the Ontario Inter-University Athletic Association (OUAA).  In 1983, the Laurier Golden Hawks captured the OUAA hockey title.  In 1984, Rob graduated from Laurier with a degree in economics and business.

In an article by Randy Russon, which appeared in the Junior Hockey Magazine following the draft in Toronto, the hockey sports writer said new general manager Holody was confident about his choices, the team's new head coach, Jacques Martin, and the future of the team.  Rob Holody even told Russon that his club was ready to be a contender.

The reporter had his doubts, but by the end of the season, Russon also became a believer.

Under the team management of Holody and Martin, the club almost dominated its division, except for a late season slump.  That slump proved to be only a diversion for the Platers.  They recovered to beat the Sudbury Wolves in the first round of the playoffs.  The Platers won the semi-finals, defeated Windsor to win the Emms title, then went on to knock-off the Belleville Bulls to win the OHL championship.

It wasn't over yet.  The young Platers went on to capture the coveted Memorial Cup in the national championship finals in Portland, Oregon, which included champion teams from the U.S. and Canada.  It was the first time an expansion team had won a national championship only four years after moving to the Major A division.

As a side note, the team won the national title on the same Saturday that general manager Rob Holody was getting married back in Canada.

"There will probably never be another year that will compare to that season when we won the Memorial Cup," said Joe Holody.  "It was our first time in the playoffs.  Those emotions will last a lifetime."

What About Plating?

The Holody's are in the electroplating business.  Starting in 1955, with two employees, the facility was expanded in 1963, 1974, and 1979.  Today, Holody is a medium-sized jobshop with 25 employees, serving primarily the electrical and automotive markets.

The facility offers barrel and rack plating.  Processes include copper, nickel, zinc, tin, silver, and some specialized cadmium processes.  Chromium was a feature of the facility, but Holody eliminated the line because there wasn't enough to justify a large equipment investment for environmental compliance.  "We had some customers for our chromium line, but couldn't justify the cost," said Joe Holody.  "When we closed the line, we found places for our customers to get their work done."

The Future of the Shop

Rob Holody recently became vice president of the electroplating shop, and is working closely with his dad, and shop founder, Joe to plan for the future.  The company has a completely automated, computerized plating line installed, but it will remain idle for now while the two Holodys decide how to move ahead in a business that is getting increasingly competitive.  According to Rob: "For now, we will continue to serve and build on our current customer base.  I don't think it will be much longer before we're ready to start growing again."

The Future of the Team

As for the hockey team, the club was moved from Guelph to Owen Sound, Ontario, in 1989.  A recent issue of Canadian Hockey Magazine says the team is looking good.  "Platers general manager Rob Holody had made some clever trades to take his team from a rebuilding year into being seen as something of a contender," the article says.  It also has praise for head coach Jerry Harrigan for building a strong defense and stressing discipline in the players.

As for former head coach Martin, who led the team to the national championship, he was picked as head coach of the St. Louis Blues the very next year.  Many of the young men who have played for the Platers during the last few years are now playing in the NHL.  Even some who didn't continue as players are now coaches and referees.  Some former stars of the Platers who moved onto the NHL teams include: Kirk Muller of the Montreal Canadians; Steve Chaisson and Gary Roberts, Calgary Flames; Kerry Huffman, Ottawa Senators; John McIntyre, Vancouver Canucks; Jamie Storr, recently picked by the Los Angeles Kings; and Rob Zamunar, Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It's all about giving kids a chance," Holody says.  "Whether they go on to become stars, or go into other areas of life, they will develop relationships and learn lessons in this program that will last them a lifetime."

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Rob & Joe HolodyPlaters general manager Rob Holody, left, and his father and team owner Joe Holody, continue to run an electroplating jobshop while managing a successful hockey franchise.  What started as a way to give something back to the community has led to one of the most successful teams in the Ontario Hockey League.
Platers goalie Jamie StorrPlaters goaltender, Jamie Storr, was a star player for the club, and was selected 7th (seventh) overall in the First Round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings.
Jamie Storr - January 1995 coverPlating and Surface Finishing
January 1995 Cover
Mighty Platers - Page 1Original Print Article - Page 1
Mighty Platers - Page 2Original Print Article - Page 2