At least three times in the past few days, a list of WHL tiebreaker games has appeared in this space. It turns out that there were two errors in it, both of them involving the first such game in league history.
According to that list, the Spokane Chiefs beat the host New Westminster Bruins, 10-9, to earn a spot in the 1980-81 playoffs.
Well, it actually was the Spokane Flyers who won the game, and it was decided in overtime.
A reader has passed along a story — and a tip of the Taking Note Fedora to him, too — by Earl Gerheim of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and here are a few highlights . . .
The game was played on March 27, 1981, and it was held in the Cominco Arena in Trail, B.C., because Queen’s Park Arena, the home of the Bruins, was embroiled in a labour dispute. . . . The Bruins had vacated their arena because of the dispute and played home games in such outposts as Bellingham, Wash., Trail, Duncan, B.C., Coleman, Alta., and Kamloops.
One night earlier, the Bruins had beaten the Seattle Breakers, 7-4, to move into a tie with the Flyers for fourth place in the Western Division. The Bruins had lost 25 straight games before beating Spokane and Seattle to forge the tie with the Flyers, each with a 17-54-1 record. They were 17 points behind the Breakers in the five-team division. . . . As an aside, the Flyers had scored 288 goals and allowed 488; the Bruins were 306 and 512. Yes, 512 goals against. . . .
Amazingly, Spokane management had no idea that there would be a tiebreaker; they assumed that the Bruins’ 6-3-1 edge in the season series would put New Westminster into the playoffs. . . .
F Mark Sochatsky scored the Flyers’ winning goal at 9:24 of OT. He finished the game with five goals and two assists, while linemate Ivan Krook had two goals and five assists. . . .
Three times the Flyers held a three-goal lead and three times the Bruins came back to tie it, the last time at 17:19 of the third period on a score by F Mike Winther. . . .
Winther’s goal came via the PP after the Bruins asked for a stick measure — remember those days? — on Flyers’ F Richard Zemlak. According to Gerheim: “Referee Jerry Pateman asked Zemlak for the stick, but Zemlak skated away, holding on to the timber and refusing to surrender it. Pateman got the stick away and assessed Zemlak a minor penalty for illegal equipment plus a misconduct penalty.” . . .
When he was asked about the call, Spokane head coach Wayne Coxworth said: “I hate to see it. I don’t like it, but it’s in the rules. It’s a heck of a way to do it.” . . .
The Victoria Cougars, who finished 60-11-1, swept the Flyers from a best-of-seven first-round series.
Before the 1981-82 season arrived, the Bruins had moved to Kamloops. The Flyers, with a record of 3-22-1, folded in the middle of the season.
The WHL held its bantam draft lottery on Wednesday, with the Winnipeg Ice emerging with the first pick.
The 2019 bantam draft is scheduled to be held in Red Deer on May 2.
The Ice had the second-poorest regular-season record and moved into the No. 1 spot when one of its balls was drawn at the WHL office in Calgary.
Following the Ice in order will be the other non-playoff teams — the Prince George Cougars (from the Swift Current Broncos), Saskatoon Blades (from Regina Pats), Prince George, Kelowna Rockets and Brandon Wheat Kings.
The complete first round looks like this at the moment:
1. Winnipeg; 2. Prince George (from Swift Current); 3. Saskatoon (from Regina); 4. Prince George; 5. Kelowna; 6. Brandon;
7. Kamloops; 8. Seattle; 9. Winnipeg (from Red Deer); 10. Brandon (from Victoria); 11. Calgary (from Tri-City); 12. Medicine Hat;
13. Calgary; 14. Swift Current (from Portland); 15. Spokane; 16. Brandon (from Moose Jaw); 17. Regina (from Lethbridge); 18. Edmonton;
19. Victoria (from Saskatoon); 20. Kamloops (from Everett); 21. Swift Current (from Vancouver); 22. Prince Albert.
From the WHL’s news release: “Players eligible for the 2019 WHL bantam draft will be 2004-born players who reside in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.”
The WHL also announced all-star teams and conference award nominees on Wednesday. If you haven’t seen any of that, it’s all at whl.ca.
Marty Hastings, who covers the Kamloops Blazers for Kamloops This Week, wonders if the Blazers’ 5-1 victory over the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Tuesday night resulted in the exorcism of a few demons, especially from the conspiracy theorists. . . . “So that’s what it feels like,” he writes. “That’s how fans feel when 6,000 strong vicariously harpoon the Ogogopo, leaving its innards to freeze on the Kamloops Blazers’ B at centre ice. They haven’t felt anything like that in a long time — a 5-1 victory over the institution inside a sold-out barn. What they have felt, at least a few of them, is disillusionment with the system, which they perceive to be the WHL and the Kelowna Rockets, the devious alliance that rules them all.” . . . The complete column is right here.
The Red Deer Rebels won’t have D Alex Alexeyev for their first-round playoff series against the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . Alexeyev, a first-round selection by the Washington Senators in the 2018 NHL draft, suffered a knee injury in a 5-3 victory over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings on March 8. . . . In a Wednesday tweet, Byron Hackett of the Red Deer Advocate quoted Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ general manager and head coach: “It’s a huge challenge. There’s no team out there that doesn’t lose their best defenceman and their horse — guy who plays 30 minutes a night — that doesn’t impact the back end. Whether it’s our level or the pro level, you lose your top player on your back end and it certainly changes things. That being said, it also give others opportunities and they have to rise to the occasion.” . . . The Rebels, the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card team, open against the Raiders, who finished atop the overall standings, on Friday night in Prince Albert.
The Seattle Thunderbirds have added D Luke Bateman to their roster for the playoff run. Bateman, 16, is from Kamloops. He was a fourth-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. . . . This season, he had nine goals and 11 assists in 32 games with the Kamloops-based Thompson Blazers of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. . . . He also was pointless in four games with the Thunderbirds. . . . The Thunderbirds, the Western Conference’s second wild-card team, will be in Langley, B.C., on Friday to open a series with the Vancouver Giants, who finished in first place.
The OHL has cut the penalty that it applied to the Niagara IceDogs in February for a violation of player recruitment rules. The OHL had fined the organization $250,000 and taken away two first-round draft picks. . . . On Wednesday, the OHL announced that the fine has been reduced to $150,000 and the team will forfeit its first-round pick in the league’s 2021 draft. . . . From an OHL news release: “The club has acknowledged that it violated OHL player recruitment rules. The club recognizes the importance of these rules and agrees to comply.” . . . If you didn’t see the story about this situation that was filed by Rick Westhead of TSN on Monday, it’s right here.