The cancellation of the rest of the OHL season had to hit a little harder for Cedric Ralph.
As one of the Guelph Storm’s three overage players, he knew it was the end of his four-year junior career, all of it played in a Storm jersey.
“I can’t really say it sunk in right away,” says Ralph over the phone from Peterborough.
“When we first heard they were going to postpone the season it was kinda’ like ‘okay, I guess we’ll come back in a couple of weeks.’”
It didn’t take long for reality to sink in.
“I guess a lot of things were going through my head. Being my last year and having it sink in that I won’t be going to go back and play for Guelph really hit me.”
Ralph is home with family now, social distancing at home with family, hoping this will be over in time for him to head east in September where he plans on attending St. Mary’s University in Halifax.
There he will play with longtime Peterborough buddy and former Petes captain Logan DeNoble.
Does he feel cheated? Not being able to finish his junior career on his terms?
“I guess you could kind of say that. Playing in Guelph for five years, you would hope to be able to go out with a bit of a bang. I really believed in the team we had and I know everyone believed in each other.”
Big picture, life picture, Ralph said the crisis has been an eye opener for everyone, giving them the opportunity to reflect and appreciate the little things.
“It’s a good opportunity, learning to appreciate the day-to-day instead of getting caught up in the day-to-day grind and letting life just pass us by,” Ralph said.
Mike Kelly drafted Ralph in the 7th round in 2015 draft off the Peterborough Petes minor midgets, where he scored 57 points in 36 games. His teammates that year included future Storm teammate Josh Wainman and NHL first round pick Barrett Hayton.
The year before in bantam hockey Ralph had 103 points.
He spent most of the next year with the tier II Lindsay Muskies, being called up for six games with the Storm.
Over the next four seasons he would play 271 games in a Storm jersey, scoring 77 goals and 71 assists.
He also experienced both ends of the spectrum, playing on two teams that didn’t make the playoffs then one that made it to the Memorial Cup tournament.
Not getting a chance to say goodbye to the fans is one of the big disappointments of the cancelled season.
“The fans is the big one. The electricity we had in Guelph is something I’ll never forget and their never ending support in that rink and how loud they would get is something that you can’t duplicate. I wish I’d been able to experience it one last time.”
Ralph spent all four seasons in Guelph billeting with Trevor and Candace Sheffield, who he wanted to publicly thank for providing what he called his second home.
“I can;t thank them enough for opening their hearts to me,” Ralph said.
He came to Guelph at 16 and left at 21.
“I look back on it seeing a lot of lessons. You take something away from each year,” he said, pointing to that first season when the team missed the playoffs.
“Being in last place, seeing the other side, you realize how much you need to struggle, how it builds your character. During those years it creates a brotherhood. I think we used those years to grow.
“That struggle really built our championship team.”