Trades paved the way
Ryan Gottschalk has a message for his old teammates.
"I'd like to see you do well and I wish you all the best," the Markham native said on Sunday night.
The former Barrie Colts defenceman represents an important piece of this team's puzzle that some might have forgotten about.
Dealt to Guelph as part of the trade that brought fellow overager Matt Kennedy to Barrie, Gottschalk is one of many players the Colts sent packing this season in the name of loading up for a run at the Memorial Cup.
There was Barrie native Michael Hutchinson, dealt to London in an off-season deal that helped bring in Russian sniper Alexander Burmistrov.
Up-and-comers Michael Sgarbossa and Ryan O'Connor were to be a big part of Barrie's future until they were sent to Saginaw in a deal for veteran blue-liners T.J. Brodie and Nick Crawford.
Adam Payerl didn't get a game in this season before he was traded to Belleville in a package for 53-goal gunner Bryan Cameron.
And here's a scary thought: Alex Pietrangelo might be patrolling Windsor's blue line if the Colts didn't offer first-rounder Ryan Strome to the Niagara IceDogs.
Some of those dealt were invisible Colts, while others didn't bring a body back in return.
Chris DeSousa dropped in for a sip of coffee -- truth be told, he never even stepped foot in Barrie -- before being flipped to London for Zac Rinaldo.
Josh Brittain helped the Colts stock up on picks when he was sent to Plymouth.
And the Colts departed with high-end future draft picks -- perhaps, future stars -- along the way.
But the deals were all made in the name of making a serious run.
And the moves appear to have paid off so far, as the Colts are four wins away from a trip to Brandon, Man., for the big-time major junior tournament.
Only the defending-champion Windsor Spitfires stand in the way, with Game 1 of the OHL final set for Tuesday night at the Barrie Molson Centre.
The players who would have been part of the run if not for a sometimes exciting, sometimes frustrating part of hockey -- trades -- can only sit back and watch.
"Obviously, I would have loved to stay," said Gottschalk, a 21-year-old defenceman who spent three-plus seasons in Barrie, and served as an assistant captain.
"(The trade) was pretty shocking, that's for sure," the character player added, noting there was an initial feeling of "betrayal" after the trade went down.
"But you make the best of the situation," he said. "Maybe I can tell my kids some day that I was on Memorial Cup-winning team, even though I couldn't stick around for the entire year."
According the head coach Marty Williamson, who orchestrated the deals along with the rest of the Colts' general management- by-committee group,
Gottschalk is a part of the team's success.
"We don't get a Matt Kennedy without it," Williamson said of the pre-trade deadline deal. "He was a piece of this team, and he helped us in developing some of our other guys.
"Everybody's got a piece of this."
That includes Hutchinson, who is back home after his Knights were knocked out of the post-season by the Kitchener Rangers.
"I'm just really happy they made it this far, and to have a small part in their success this season ... it's something you can take a little bit of pride in," the Boston Bruins draft pick said.
"I'll be rooting for Barrie, for sure."
While the jury might still be out on
whether the Colts' wheeling and dealing this
season can be dubbed a success, one
thing can't be disputed: the Colts finished the regular season in first overall and they've reached the league final.
"We would not go back and do anything differently," Williamson said. "You do trades to get yourself and opportunity."
Opportunity surely does knock today.
Gottschalk, who has committed to play for the St. Mary's Huskies next season, won't be on the ice if the Colts win, but he'll take the next-best thing.
That would be watching his former team win.
"The Colts are in my blood," he said.