HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-At-Home Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Kevin Domingue had plenty of incentive to return to the University of Ottawa for a fifth year last fall. He wanted to complete his degree (finish his minor) and have a hockey experience that would realize a national title.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic was still alive and gaining momentum six months after it prevented the Gee-Gees from attending the eight-team U Sports University Cup championship last March, Domingue went another direction.
“I wanted to bring back our team to nationals, since we didn’t have the chance to play a game because of COVID,” Domingue wrote in an email interview. The Gee-Gees lost the OUA final to the University of Guelph Gryphons in triple overtime, but qualified for nationals.
“I had four great years of hockey there and I wanted to use that fifth year to push the limits and do more great things. I didn’t want to regret to not use all my years of eligibility with the Gee-Gees.”
Statistically, Domingue had four “great years” wearing No. 17 for the Gee-Gees. He led the team in scoring each year, compiling 71 goals and 127 points in 112 regular-season games. He notched a team-record 19 goals in 2017-18.
When the Gee-Gees held their annual year-end awards ceremony (virtually) in April, Domingue won the Career Achievement Award, recognizing his cumulative impact and indelible mark on the history of the Gee-Gees.
Without a fifth Gee-Gees hockey season, Domingue turned to pro hockey. He started with a two-month stint with Tulsa in the East Coast Hockey League before he was released.
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“I didn’t have much success there,” he said. “It happens sometimes.”
Then he got a phone call from Guillaume Doucet, the director of operations for the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom. Doucet was familiar with Domingue and offered him a contract.
It was a smart move for both parties. Domingue has been a significant contributor for the Panthers, who are two wins away from winning the league’s best-of-three playoff championship, which runs Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
In its two-game, total-goal aggregate semifinal, Domingue scored what would be considered the game-winning goal in the Panthers’ 2-0 and 4-1 decisions over Coventry Blaze. Nottingham will meet Sheffield Steelers in the final.
Domingue played all 12 regular-season games for Nottingham in its short EIHL campaign as well as its first two playoff games. He has recorded nine goals and nine assists and is a +13 with 64 shots (of 90 taken) on goal.
Domingue was getting ready to go to bed earlier this month, when the Gee-Gees announced on social media he had won the Career Achievement Award. He was “definitely surprised,” “extremely honoured,” and “a bit emotional.”
As grateful as he was to win the award, Domingue felt his four years as a Gee-Gee was as much about his personal growth as it was about his statistical achievements.
“Personally, I don’t think my greatest contribution to this hockey program is just about an all-time record I beat,” the Laval, Que. native signalled. “It’s more about something our coach Pat (Patrick Grandmaitre) told us during our first year.
“He said he wanted us, as individuals, to leave the jersey in a better place. He wanted us to become a better person on and off the ice. And I think my greatest contribution is that I left the jersey at a better place.
“I’m proud that I helped rebuild this program four years ago (with) 20-plus other players and great individuals. I’m proud I contributed (to) something bigger than me and this will impact me for the rest of my life.
“It helped me mature as a person and build phenomenal relationships and connections with great individuals for the rest of my life. So definitely, my greatest contribution is that I left the jersey in a better place.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.