Fred Jennings was waiting patiently in the crowd gathered in the concourse at Progressive Auto Sales Arena, Saturday. The Sarnia Sting Hockey Club was hosting its Hall of Fame Induction press conference, and the long-time fan — clad in his Sting hat and jacket — was hoping to get a glimpse of his number one guy.
“Jon Sim was my all-time favourite — there’s no doubt about it,” said a glowing Jennings, who turns 90 this year. “He was just so gritty, and he skated so well.”
Sim, who remains the all-time leader in Sting franchise points, was a special guest on hand for the Class of 2024 Hall of Fame Induction, having missed last year’s event — when he was named to the inaugural class — due to weather.
Jennings eventually made his way through the crowd and introduced himself to Sim, letting him know just how much he meant to him.
“I’ve got a poster of him, when he came back to Sarnia I had him sign it,” recalled Jennings, a 30-year season ticket holder. He was ‘Patron No. 20’ at the old Brock Street Barn when the franchise moved from Newmarket in 1994.
Jennings and his wife faithfully followed the team together over the years — bus trips and all — until she passed away in 2020.
“She was just a huge Sting fan,” he said. “I have a lot of great memories.
“I gave her seat up, but I’m still coming.”
It’s the loyal fans — like Jennings — that make the club so special, something former Sting president Bill Abercrombie noted during the press conference. He was there to be honoured alongside fellow 2024 Inductees Aaron Brand and Andy Delmore. Also being honoured was Dr. Duncan MacKinlay, who was unable to attend.
“We’ve got a city of 73,000 people and we are putting in 4,300 - 4,400 every night,” Abercrombie said of the Progressive Auto Sales Arena game-night crowds.
“I know what kind of a hockey city Sarnia is… and I think it’s a tribute to our fans.”
Here’s more on each of the inductees:
1994–96; 132 GP – 194 POINTS
Originally drafted in the 13th round (204th overall) by the Newmarket Royals in 1992 Aaron Brand would go on to be one of the best draft picks in Cornwall/ Newmarket/ Sarnia franchise history.
It would be the 1995 – 1996 season that would ultimately cement Brand’s legacy as one of the most prolific scorers in franchise history. That season Brand would lead not only the Sarnia Sting in points but also finished atop the OHL Leading Scorer race with 119 points.
Along with the leading scorer trophy he would also be named the Top OHL Overage Player that season and was named to the season ending Second All-Star Team.
To go along with his scoring proficiency, Brand also proved to be incredibly durable, not missing a single game in both of his seasons in Sarnia. A lasting memory of Brand’s time with the Sting was the night he signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs at centre ice of the Sarnia Arena.
1994–97; 154 GP – 155 POINTS.
Upon joining the Sting, Delmore would begin to emerge as an offensive threat from the blueline registering 18 points in 27 games. Over the next two seasons (95-96 and 96-97) Delmore would be a fixture on the Sting blueline and would be one of the mainstays of a dangerous Sting power play.
During the 95-96 season he would eclipse the 20-goal mark, a huge accomplishment for any defenseman.
In his final season with the Sting Delmore finished with 78 points in 63 games. At the time of his hall of fame induction (2024) this mark stands as the highest single season total of any Sting defenseman in team history.
Delmore would go on to play 17 years professionally including parts of seven seasons in the NHL.
BILL ABERCROMBIE – Builders Category
Abercrombie began his coaching career in 1985, leading the Petrolia Jets Junior C team. When the OHL’s Newmarket Royals relocated to Sarnia to become the Sting in 1994, Abercrombie joined the Hockey Club and served as an Assistant Coach until 2002. During this period, he helped develop many of the organization’s early stars.
In 2010, Abercrombie made his return to the Sting as Vice President of Hockey Operations before being named the Club’s President in 2014. In this role, Abercrombie worked closely with the Sting Hockey Operations Department while overseeing the Hockey Club’s business activities.
As President, Abercrombie played pivotal roles in many of the Sting’s off-ice accomplishments. He was instrumental in completing the 2018 videoboard and LED ribbon upgrade at Progressive Auto Sales Arena (PASA) which brought new life and modern technology into the Sting gameday experience.
Following the successful completion of this, Bill then spearheaded the construction of a state-of-the-art dressing room. A move that elevated the Sting program, providing a professional space for players and staff that is second to none.
DR. DUNCAN MACKINLAY- Builders Category
In the lead up to the inaugural 1994-95 Sting season, Owner Robert Ciccarelli approached local orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Duncan MacKinlay to see if he would be interested in being the team’s orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. MacKinlay readily agreed, and when asked his salary expectations, he said he would volunteer his time; he just wanted to help play a part in bringing the OHL team to Sarnia and ensuring its success.
Throughout his time with the Sting, Dr. MacKinlay was known to go above and beyond on multiple occasions to ensure the players received the most urgent and professional care required.
In December of 2023, after more than three decades of practicing medicine and thirty seasons of being the team’s official orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. MacKinlay retired from both roles. He estimated that he performed over fifty plus surgeries on members of the Sting, some of whom have gone on to have NHL careers. Though he is retired from his official capacity with the Sting, he remains an avid fan and enjoys attending games with his grandchildren.