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Rock Republic Crowned Champions, Klein Cup Bound for Newfoundland

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

For the third straight year, the Klein Cup is staying in Canada — getting to experience its third different province!

From Regina, Saskatchewan, to Montreal, Quebec, and now onto Newfoundland, the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League’s silver chalice has been well travelled north of the 49th parallel. This year’s parade is planned for Lewisporte, N.L., after Rock Republic defeated the Grizzlies in a dominant display during the Klein Cup Final — previously prevailing over West Coast Express in the Legends Conference Final, Titans in the Orr Division Final, and fellow Newfoundland franchise Kamikaze in the opening round. But first, a date with the engraver to etch Rock Republic’s championship roster, ownership group and staff onto the Klein Cup and into UFHL history!

Despite that Canadian dominance through these early days, the UFHL has become a real international league with six American-based franchises and two owners now residing in Costa Rica. There are GMs from as far away as France and Italy. So it is only a matter of time until the Klein Cup heads below the border and overseas. But its next stop is Newfoundland, where Kyle Roberts, David Brown and the rest of the Rock Republic team will be celebrating their first UFHL championship! And we all know Newfoundlanders can celebrate with the best of them!

“The Klein Cup will be coming to Central Newfoundland and will be passed around between mine and David’s families. We’re going to have the Cup around for some family and friend events,” said Roberts, who will have a tough act to follow after former Red Army owner Luc Grenier feasted on poutine from the Cup — in similar fashion to former Tampa player Mathieu Joseph. “We’ll be drinking some local NL beer out of the trophy, for sure. Quidi Vidi and Split Rock are the two breweries.”

The big party will take place in the fall with a Rock Republic reunion at Donny Tulk’s wedding on the northeast coast in Musgrave Harbour. Tulk was a founding member of Rock Republic’s five-man ownership group and the franchise’s original GM but left the fold in December 2020 to buy the Kamikaze franchise and took affiliated scout Paul Easton with him as an assistant GM. That same month, Dylan Wheaton also branched out to buy the Blizzard, which he has since flipped for a nice profit while still serving as an assistant GM for that franchise. Roberts remained with Rock Republic, taking the GM reins from Tulk, while Brown focused on the branding and marketing department. They will be getting the gang back together for this glorious occasion and the Klein Cup will also be in attendance!

“The trophy will be coming with me,” confirmed Roberts. “Donny was a big part of the initial building of this team, along with all the Rock Republic original five-man ownership group. All will be in attendance for this event.”

That begged the question of whether Tulk, Easton and Wheaton will be allowed to touch the Cup, let alone drink from it? Or will they be hands off, as per hockey tradition and superstition that prevents players from touching the Cup until they have won it themselves.

“You will have to ask them!” Roberts responded with a laugh. “Definitely welcome but I’m unsure if this is the way they all want to hold the Klein Cup for the first time.”

The fourth franchise with ties to Newfoundland has already brought home a UFHL trophy, with the Ice Vikings winning last year’s Founders’ Trophy as regular season champs. But the Klein Cup is extra special — fully engraved, with all the fanfare — and will feature another Newfoundlander in Alex Newhook, a rookie forward for Colorado who was one of only two owned players on Rock Republic’s championship roster, along with veteran Darren Helm.

“It was nice to see Alex be a part of our championship team throughout the regular season and the entire playoff run,” said Roberts, who is also rostering fellow Newfoundland products Dawson Mercer of the New Jersey Devils and Zach Dean, a first-round pick for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Proud to be winning with that homegrown talent, Rock Republic finished sixth overall in the regular season standings as the second seed from the Orr Division. None of the 16 entrants in the third annual UFHL/NHL Playoff Pool predicted Rock Republic to win the Klein Cup — or even the Legends Conference — and they were underdogs in the last three rounds, knocking off the Titans (2), West Coast Express (3) and the Grizzlies (5). Underdogs in terms of their regular season placement but favourites for the Klein Cup Final thanks to a manpower advantage and plenty of star power after picking up the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, along with Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy, from their eliminated opponents through the UFHL’s innovative leasing system. They had a star-studded roster by the final round, racking up 84 fantasy points from Colorado’s blowout in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final and following up with 72 fantasy points from Game 3 to lock up the Klein Cup.

“Over 84 points in one night … our team has never come close to that in the regular season. We drafted and picked up a number of elite playoff performers that contributed to our team’s success,” said Roberts, who selected Alex Killorn in the second round and Ryan McDonagh in the fifth round of the UFHL Playoff Draft as players who went the distance with Newhook and Helm. Worth noting, this is Kucherov’s third straight Klein Cup championship — previously winning as a franchise player for the Monarchs and as the second overall pick in last year’s playoff draft for Red Army.

“We can’t forget our depth, though, as 39 different players from our post-trade deadline roster suited up in NHL games this season,” continued Roberts. “This playoff experience has helped us grow as a group. We know that our hard work over the past two-plus years has now paid off.

“Our past performances in the regular season since this project began three years ago and now our Klein Cup win has helped grow our brand to yet another level. I’m proud to be a part-owner and GM of this organization, and this is a dream come true!”

Now comes the challenge of trying to repeat. Roberts isn’t expecting to continue the trend of Klein Cup champions selling and going out on top — Ashley Murray, the daughter-in-law of Tampa Bay assistant GM Al Murray, moved on after her Monarchs were crowned inaugural champs in 2020 and the aforementioned Grenier cashed out for $75K USD following Red Army’s triumph in 2021. Sailing off into the sunset could become an option for Rock Republic too, but they are already forging ahead with their offseason plan.

“We plan to stay for the longer term, unless it’s something that can’t be turned down. I guess all NFTs on our roster as well as the Rock Republic organization has a price, but there’s no current price tag associated. Always have our ears open, but that’s about it at this point,” said Roberts, knowing $80K USD is the current benchmark set by the Gators’ sale in December to the family of former NHLer Cory Conacher. “In saying that, we know we have a huge offseason. We’ve already made some trades to move some players, shed some cap space, and add some younger players and picks. The draft is just around the corner and we plan to reinvest some of our Klein Cup winnings back into our team.”

And Roberts is already grooming his successor as GM — welcoming the next generation during this season, as the heir apparent to their professional fantasy franchise.

So what’s next for Rock Republic as the defending champ with a core that includes Sebastian Aho and Timo Meier as well as veterans Patrice Bergeron and Marc-Andre Fleury? They have been shopping Jordan Binnington to make room for Spencer Knight as Fleury’s successor and might be looking to flip Sean Monahan this summer. The future is still looking bright for Rock Republic — with Newhook and Mercer at the forefront of their youth movement — so they should be able to contend for years to come.

“Definitely going to celebrate our victory but we will be busy again this summer,” assured Roberts. “We have gained a lot from this Klein Cup experience but we know, to stay competitive year after year, that w