It is time to let your imagination run wild for a few minutes. OK?
Just imagine that NHL teams only carried one goaltender. And let’s imagine that one team’s goaltender was injured during a pre-game warmup, played the first two periods, but then couldn’t continue.
If that team was the Pittsburgh Penguins, would Sidney Crosby go in goal for the third period? If it was the Edmonton Oilers, would it be Connor McDavid?
Because that’s exactly what happened with the Estevan Bruins during a game in 1967-68, the second season of what is now the WHL.
I had never heard this story from the annals of WHL history until stumbling on it while doing some research on Saturday.
I was looking for a goaltender, any goaltender, who might have started his WHL career by going 20-plus games without a regulation-time loss.
The Bruins — Scotty Munro was the general manager and Ernie (Punch) McLean the coach — had opened the 1967-68 season with a 22-game winning streak, so I started there.
Gord Kopp was Estevan’s goaltender — teams only carried one goaltender — so he had opened the season with 22 straight victories.
Unfortunately, WHL statistics from the early seasons are embarrassingly scarce. So I was relying on newspapers.com where a subscriber is able to access a whole lot of newspapers, including the Brandon Sun, Edmonton Journal and Regina Leader-Post.
Through these newspapers, I was able to ascertain that the Bruins won their 22nd straight game on Dec. 10, 1967, beating the host Swift Current Broncos, 9-6.
However, Kopp was injured in the warmup, suffering a broken nose and a bad facial cut. I think it’s safe to assume that Kopp took a puck to the face. I don’t know whether he wore a mask with the Bruins, although I did find a photo of him wearing one of those form-fitting Fibreglas masks from a time in his brief minor pro career.
Anyway, he played the first two periods in Swift Current before apparently deciding that he couldn’t continue.
This is where things get interesting because it was F Jim Harrison, perhaps the Bruins’ best player, who donned the pads and played the third period. Not only that, but Harrison had scored three goals through 40 minutes. While I wasn’t able to find out how many saves he made in the third, the Bruins did hold period leads of 5-3 and 7-3. So the Broncos outscored the visitors 3-2 with Harrison in goal.
(Harrison finished that season with 75 points, including 32 goals, in 46 games. F Gregg Sheppard led the team with 81 points, 35 of them goals, in 58 games.)
But when is the last time a WHL player — or any junior player for that matter — had a hat trick and played goal in the same game?
Still, the Bruins came out of that game boasting a 22-0-0 record.
And then came Dec. 12, 1967, and a game in Saskatoon against the Blades.
“You have to concede the Bruins win No. 23 tonight when they take on the Blades in Saskatoon,” wrote Ron Campbell in that day’s Regina Leader-Post.
With Kopp unavailable, the Bruins brought in Ed Dyck, who had turned 17 on Oct. 29, from the junior B North Battleford Beaver-Bruins. With Dyck in goal, the Bruins dropped a 4-3 decision to the Blades before 1,410 fans.
Estevan took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Harrison and D Dale Hoganson, but F Orest Kindrachuk got the Blades to within one before the period ended. F Ron Fairbrother pulled Saskatoon into a 2-2 tie with the only goal of the second period, then gave his guys a 3-2 lead at 5:46 of the third.
F Greg Polis scored for Estevan at 6:18, only to have F Jim Nicholls score what proved to be the winner, at 10:59, as the Blades improved to 7-12-3.
“Those Blades played a whale of game,” Munro told Jack Cook of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. “We were bound to lose one eventually, and I’m glad we didn’t give it away. Blades were good enough to take it tonight.”
BTW, Cook reported that “there was no shortage of professional scouts at the game with five NHL clubs represented by nine men . . . including Dennis Ball, Danny Summers, Lorne Davis, Metro Prystai, Johnny Walker, Bud Quinn and Rudy Migay.”)
Cook also wrote: “Young Dyck, playing in his first junior A game, was remarkably calm and had little chance on the four shots that beat him.”
Dyck played four straight games with the Bruins. He beat the Oil Kings, 5-3, in Edmonton on Dec. 13, then dropped a 2-1 decision to the Buffaloes in Calgary the next night. (The Buffaloes had been 0-17-2 in their previous 19 outings.) On Dec. 16, Dyck beat the visiting Buffaloes, 7-4.
Dyck would go on to a couple of stellar seasons with the Calgary Centennials, and would spend three seasons in the NHL and one in the WHA.
Kopp returned for a Dec. 17 game against the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings, and stopped 23 shots in a 5-0 victory for his 23rd straight triumph.
However, Kopp’s run ended four nights later with a 4-1 loss in Brandon. The Wheat Kings outshot the Bruins, 28-20 in that one, as Brandon head coach Elliott Chorley chose to use only six forwards and four defencemen for most of the game. Yes, it was a different game in those days.
Chorley had Larry Romanchych between Jack Wells and Bob Young, although Young was injured early on and Gerald Canart slid into that spot. The other forward unit featured Jack Borotsik between Ray Brownlee and Bob Clyne, who scored twice. The defence pairings had Bill Mikkelson with Mark Kennedy, and Jack Criel with Jim Wilton.
At that point, the Bruins were 25-3, with Kopp at 23-1 and Dyck at 2-2.
In the end, however, it turned out that Kopp didn’t start his WHL career in 1967-68. As I learned with more digging, Kopp played some in 1966-67 when Prince George native Pete Neukomm was the Bruins’ starter. (Kopp actually lost his final appearance of 1966-67, 3-2, to the visiting Regina Pats.)
All told, Kopp got into 103 games with Estevan over the 1967-68 (55) and 1968-69 (48) seasons. In 1967-68, he played in 55 of the team’s 60 regular-season games, with a 2.76 GAA, .902 save percentage and six shutouts. He was 3.33 and .900 without a shutout in 1968-69. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any statistics from 1966-67.
All of this was necessary because the WHL wasn’t able to confirm whether G Daniel Hauser of the Winnipeg Ice had set a record or was near a record when he went into Saturday’s game in Saskatoon with a career mark of 22-0-2.
Hauser, who turned 18 on Jan. 29, was 7-0-1 with Winnipeg in the development season of 2021. This season, he was 13-0-1 before the Blades beat the Ice, 7-2, on Saturday night.
It would seem that Hauser does indeed hold the record for longest unbeaten streak by a goaltender to begin his WHL career, at 22-0-2. Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun pointed out that Scott Olson, a native of Bloomington, Minn., who spent parts of three seasons (1977-80) with the Wheat Kings, started his career on a 15-0-3 run. We will assume, unless we hear differently, that Olson held the record before Hauser’s arrival.
The 5-foot-11, 160-pound Hauser, from Chestermere, Alta., was a sixth-round selection by Winnipeg in the WHL’s 2019 draft.
When you go down a rabbit hole like I did in chasing Gord Kopp and the Estevan Bruins, you stumble on things like this . . .
The Bruins beat the visiting Weyburn Red Wings, 5-1, for their 20th straight victory on Dec. 5. The next day, The Leader-Post reported: “The Bruins moved one step closer to the all-time junior hockey win streak mark set at 25 by the now-defunct Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1942.”
Of course, the Bruins didn’t quite get there.
Tweet of the week — Sunaya Sapurji (@sunayas), after Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers repeated the nonsense about the validity of U.S. President Joe Biden’s election victory in a Friday interview with ESPN: “Has anyone gone from ‘He could host Jeopardy!’ to ‘Legit horse paste conspiracy loon’ faster than Aaron Rodgers!?!”
John Stockton, the NBA Hall of Fame guard who starred at Gonzaga, has had his season tickets suspended by the school because he refuses to wear a mask at men’s basketball games. In an interview, Stockton, a devout anti-vaxxer, told Theo Lawson of the Spokane Spokesman-Review: “I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead — professional athletes — the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court.” . . . Lawson also wrote: “During the interview, Stockton asserted that more than 100 professional athletes have died of vaccination. He also said tens of thousands of people – perhaps millions – have died from vaccines.” . . . Yes, we are in this for a long time yet.
Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Robot umpires — or ABS, the Automated Ball and Strike System — will be used in Triple-A games this season, Major League Baseball announced. So now players will be subjected to a whole different kind of annoying robocalls.”
A reminder from Perry: “Only 22 days till pitchers and catchers don’t report.”
The Fredonia State Blue Devils are an NCAA Division III team that plays out of the State University of New York in Fredonia. . . . And here’s a goalie goal from the Blue Devils’ Logan Dyck, a 22-year-old from Calgary . . .
Headline at fark.com: Seahawks uninstall Norton.
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