When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe in March 2020, it put a halt to life as we knew it. That included the 2019-20 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season and the Windsor Spitfires’ hopes of a potential playoff run. The abrupt end gave an empty feeling and it makes us wonder – where are they now?
Then-Spitfires’ head coach Trevor Letowski had his club in the fifth seed heading into the playoffs. They had enough talent to at least get past the first round, which would have snapped a lengthy drought of not making it to the second round. However, the world stopped on Thurs., March 12, 2020, just hours before the club was scheduled to play. Instead, we said goodbye to several players who moved on. What happened to that talented roster? Let’s find out…
Forward (and Captain) Luke Boka
When the Spitfires drafted Plymouth, MI native Luke Boka in the fifth round of the 2015 OHL Draft, they envisioned a potential leader who could do a bit of everything. They got that and more.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound winger became a fantastic two-way player. Whether it was blocking shots, scoring a timely goal, throwing a huge hit, or protecting teammates, he made his presence known. Despite just 140 points in 313 career games, he was consistently around the 30-35-point mark and had those intangibles (defensive rock, blocking shots, leading the room) that made him stand out.
While he was soft-spoken, Boka earned the alternate captain’s “A” in 2017-18 and then was given the “C” from 2018 until COVID shut everything down. It was a rough way to end his junior career but now we ask – what happened to him?
Shortly after the season ended, Boka committed to Queen’s University in Kingston, ON. However, the pandemic prevented that from materializing. In August 2021, he signed with the Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) where he has been ever since. This season, he had 22 points in 68 games.
Boka has always had a big heart and did what was best for his team. Hopefully this is the start of a long pro career.
Forward Curtis Douglas
After the Spitfires won the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup, then-general manager Warren Rychel had the difficult task of rebuilding the club. One of the key pieces to that involved trading captain Aaron Luchuk to the Barrie Colts in December 2017. In return, he got several picks plus 6-foot-9, 240-pounder Curtis Douglas. It was a tough pill to swallow but one fans didn’t regret.
Rychel was known for his love of the physical game and the young Douglas delivered. He used his size where necessary, but also showed he could really play the game. The Dallas Stars’ fourth-round pick in 2018 had 30 goals in 2019-20 and finished with 141 points in 166 games for the Spitfires, becoming a leader on the ice and in the room. Having his OHL career end so suddenly was tough but now we ask – what happened to him?
When the OHL shut down, he went overseas to play for the Steel Wings Linz of the Alps Hockey League (AlpsHL) where he had 12 points in 16 games in 2020-21. While he wasn’t able to sign with the Stars, his play still caught the attention of the pros. In August 2021, he signed with the Belleville Senators (Ottawa Senators’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate) but has since moved on play for the Toronto Marlies (AHL) and now the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL). This season, he had 14 points and 119 penalty minutes in 50 games for them.
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While it was rough to see a junior career end like that, seeing Douglas develop his game in the AHL has been a treat for Spitfires fans.
Forward Cole Purboo
When you think of character guys on that Spitfires’ club, you can’t help but picture forward Cole Purboo. The Oakville native was everything you want in a feel-good story.
Chosen in the ninth round in 2015, Purboo made an impression at the Spitfires’ 2015 Rookie Camp and spent a season with the Toronto Patriots of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) to hone his skills. He came to camp in 2016-17 and refused to be cut. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he wasn’t quick but had a strength and determination that couldn’t be taught. Whether it was timely offence, creating issues in the crease, or being a mainstay in the lineup, there wasn’t much the kid couldn’t do. He consistently had between 45-50 points each season, dressed in 263 of a possible 266 games (including 244-straight), and was named an alternate captain from 2018-20. He was a class act and did it all with a smile on his face.
What happened to this fan favourite? Shortly after the season ended, Purboo committed to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. While they didn’t play in 2020-21, the Commerce major has had 16 goals and 35 points in 43 games to date and was named an alternate captain this season.
Purboo has an intelligence and determination about his game that you simply can’t teach. He knows how to get the job done and looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
Defenceman Connor Corcoran
Finally, let’s look at one of the better two-way defencemen the Spitfires have had over the last decade. After losing their first-round pick in 2016 due to league recruitment violations in 2012, they chose young defenceman Connor Corcoran with the first pick in the second round. This meant expectations were higher… and he delivered.
While he started his career slowly with just 10 points in 59 games in 2016-17, he pushed the pace and wound up with 120 points in 252 games. That included an impressive 19 goals and 54 points in 62 games in 2019-20. The Vegas Golden Knights‘ 2018 fifth-rounder wasn’t flashy but got the job done at both ends of the rink with poise and professionalism. The club also gave him an “A” in 2019-20 for his work in the room and the community.
Despite having a season of eligibility left when COVID-19 hit, he would have likely gone to the Golden Knights’ farm system, regardless. What happened to this budding defenceman? He’s been working on his development, splitting his time between the AHL and ECHL. This season, he played 59 games for the Savannah Ghost Pirates (Vegas’ ECHL affiliate) with 10 goals and 29 points. It’s a process and, hopefully, we’ll see him in the NHL in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on life as we know it. Having several Spitfires’ junior careers end on a tough note was tough to accept but these four players have been able to continue hockey at various levels. Hopefully, fans will get a chance to see them return to the halls of the WFCU Centre down the road.