Remembering the night Oil Kings’ owner coached Calgary team . . . Hodgson finally gets hockey card . . . Dinos tie Canada West record

In going through some files the other night, I stumbled on a few interesting episodes from the WHL’s past, back when there were a whole lot of colourful characters who called it home. Here is one tale from the past. . . .

It was November of 1966 and the WHL, then called the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League, was in its first season when one team’s owner and general manger ended up coaching another team, a team on whose board of directors he happened to sit.


Yes, the gentleman in question was Bill Hunter, who was the Edmonton Oil Kings’ owner, president, chief executive offer, general manager and coach whenever he wanted to be. He also sat on the board of directors of the Calgary Buffaloes. Oh, he also was the chairman of the CMJHL’s board of governors.

The Buffaloes, under coach John Kell, were struggling at 1-9-0. As October turned into November, Kell stepped down amidst rumours that Hunter would put his Oil Kings’ stock in trust and move south to run the Buffs. Hunter, naturally, denied all of that, although he was in Calgary on Oct. 31 to run the Buffaloes through a practice session. With Hunter back in Edmonton, Jim Finney handled practices for the next four days.

On Nov. 4, Hunter and CMJHL commissioner Frank Boucher actually held separate news conferences on the same day in different cities during all of this. Hunter, speaking in Calgary, told the gathered newshounds that the Buffs would sign a coach “in three or four days” and then added that he couldn’t reveal the name just yet. Meanwhile, down the highway in Regina, Boucher was announcing that Alf Pike would coach the Buffaloes but that Pike wouldn’t be available for a few days.

The very next night the Buffaloes met the Regina Pats in Calgary. And guess who was behind the Calgary bench? Yes, it was Wild Bill Hunter, live and in person. The Pats ruined it all by winning, 3-1.

“I’m more convinced than ever the Buffs have the makings of a fine junior club,” Hunter said after the game. “When Alf gets here and implements a system, they’ll start winning their share of games.”

The Buffaloes, who were 1-11-0 after Hunter’s one game behind the bench, finished the season at 4-47-5.


When the subject turns to the greatest WHL players of all-time, the name Dan PrinceAlbertHodgson isn’t mentioned nearly enough. Hodgson played three seasons (1982-85) with the Prince Albert Raiders, putting up 493 points, including 305 assists, in 202 games. He also played two games with the Spokane Flyers in 1980-81 but didn’t record any points. . . . Hodgson won a Memorial Cup (1985) with the Raiders and played for Canada at two Wold Junior Championships. . . . He was a fifth-round selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL’s 1983 draft. . . . Hodgson, now 57, went on to play 114 games over four NHL seasons, picking up 29 goals and 45 assists. He then went on to a lengthy career in Europe. . . . And through it all he never once had a hockey card. But, as Abdulhamid Ibrahim of The Canadian Press points out, that has all changed with Upper Deck having issued its First Peoples Rookie Cards set. . . . This is a great story and it’s all right here.

ICYMI, Jan. 20 was the 20th anniversary of one of the great moments in NHL history. . . .


The Regina Pats, aka the Travelling Bedards, are to face the Wheat Kings in Brandon on Feb. 24. The Wheat Kings announced on Friday morning that only standing room tickets are available for that one. . . . Those tickets were to go on sale later in the morning, so the SOLD OUT sign may well be up by now. . . .

The U of Calgary Dinos tied a Canada West record on Friday night as they ran their winnings streak to 17 games with an 8-2 victory over the Cougars in Regina. The Dinos now share the record with the1978-79 Albrerta Golden Bears. F Jake Gricius had a goal and two assists for Calgary, giving him six points in a two-game sweep of the Cougars. G Carl Tetachuk stopped 20 shots to post his CW-leading 14th victory.



The host Swift Current Broncos scored three times in the last seven minutes of the third period and beat the Regina Pats, 4-2. . . . F Drew Englot’s first goal with the Broncos since being acquired from the Kamloops Blazers at the trade deadline, at 13:18 of the third, stood up as the winner. Englot, 20, began is WHL career with the Pats. . . . Regina F Connor Bedard gave his guys a 1-0 lead with his WHL-leading 37th goal at 8:57 of the first period. It was his 100th career regular-season goal and ran his point streak to 31 games. . . . Announced attendance was 2,890 in a building that has a listed capacity of 2,879. . . . The Broncos are scheduled to visit Regina tonight. . . . The Broncos and Pats are tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but Swift Current has three games in hand. . . .

F Misha Volotovskii scored twice to lead the Saskatoon Blades — there were the Saskatoon Bananas in a second annual promotion — dumped the visiting Prince Albert Raiders, 6-1. . . . Volotofskii, a 17-year-old sophomore from Saskatoon, has three goals in 38 games. Last season, he scored twice in 53 games. . . . The Blades are 5-0-0 against the Raiders this season, having outscored them 24-5. . . . D Landon Kosior was back in the Raiders’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 4. . . . They’ll do it all over again tonight, this time in Prince Albert. . . .

F Nolan Flamand had a goal (6) and two assists to help the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 4-2 victory over the Hitmen in Calgary. . . . D Quinn Mantei (2) broke a 2-2 tie at 17:10 of the third period. . . . The Wheat Kings, who are four points out of a playoff spot, welcomed back two injured players. D Andrei Malyavin last played on Dec. 18, while F Caleb Hadland had been out since Oct. 29. . . .

F Kyle Chyzowski scored at 2:30 of OT to give the host Portland Winterhawks a wild 7-6 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . F Jake Poole’s 23rd goal, at 14:20 of the third period, had given the visitors a 6-4 lead. . . . F Gabe Klassen (24) got Portland to within one at 16:50 and F Robbie Fromm-Delorme (23) tied it at 18:41, both with G Dante Giannuzzi on the bench for an extra attacker. Chyzowski won it with his 11th goal. . . . Klassen and Fromm-Delorme each scored twice, as did teammate James Stefan (15). . . . F Chaz Lucius made his Portland debut on a line with fellow Americans Jack O’Brien and Stefan, who scored 13 seconds into the first period. . . . O’Brien had three assists, Stefan two goals and an assist, and Lucius two assists. . . . The game included only four minor penalties, the last one to the Royals at 2:30 of OT. . . . The Royals are 0-2 on a three-game swing into the U.S. Division that ends tonight Spokane. . . .

In Red Deer, the Rebels scored four third-period goals and beat the Prince George Cougars, 8-5. . . . F Kai Uchacz scored twice (36) and added three assists for the winners, giving him his first career five-point game. . . . The Rebels were 5-for-7 on the PP. . . . F Ben King, who led the WHL with 52 goals last season, scored once (6) as he returned to the Rebels lineup for the first time since Oct. 22. . . . The victory lifted the Rebels into first place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the idle Winnipeg Ice, which holds five games in hand. . . .

Kelowna F Carson Golder, playing after a four-game absence, scored on his first shift back and later added a second goal to lead the Rockets to a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. . . . The Rockets had lost their previous six road games. . . . Golder has 16 goals. . . . The Giants were 0-for-8 on the PP. . . . The Twitter account New Westminster Bruins (@NewWestBruins) pointed out Friday afternoon that the Giants played the Rockets “just once in their first 41 games and now play EIGHT times in their final 27.” . . . Kelowna F Andrew Cristall, who has 62 points in 36 games, missed his fourth straight game. . . . These same teams are to meet again tonight, this time in Kelowna. . . . The eighth-place Rockets are seven points behind the Giants with two games in hand. . . .

F Parker Bell enjoyed his first three-goal game to spark the Tri-City Americans to an 8-2 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops. . . . Bell, who scored all three goals on the PP, now has 21 goals. . . . The Americans, who trailed 2-1 after a period, were 4-for-4 on the PP. . . . Interestingly, Tri-City’s Lukas Dragicevic, who leads WHL defencemen in points, only had one assist, while D Marc Lajoie drew four helpers. . . . Tri-City G Tomas Suchanek finished up with 48 stops. . . . With the Americans leading 6-2 in the third period, Kamloops G Dylan Ernst stopped his older brother, Ethan, on a penalty shot. . . . The same teams will play again tonight in Kamloops. . . .

F Reid Schaefer counted on a penalty shot in OT as the Seattle Thunderbirds got past the Lethbridge Hurricanes, 3-2, in Kent, Wash. . . . The Hurricanes were in OT for the fourth time in five games. They have won one of those games. . . . Schaefer, who has 18 goals, won it at 1:18 of extra time after tying the score, 2-2, at 6:58 of the third period. . . . Lethbridge is 0-0-2 on its three-game U.S. Division trek that concludes tonight in Portland. . . .

G Tyler Palmer turned aside 25 shots to help the host Everett Silvertips to a 5-2 victory over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Spokane led 2-1 after the first period, but Everett scored the game’s last four goals. . . . The comeback was sparked by F Kyan Grouette’s first goal of the season in his 30th game. Grouette, who turned 18 on Jan. 7, is from Dauphin, Man. He tied the score, 2-2, at 6:22 of the second period.

Here’s Ken Campbell of Hockey Unfiltered:

“By my count there are 14 Russian Orthodox churches in Philadelphia and another 10 in Cherry Hill, N.J., where most of the Philadelphia Flyers live. I wonder how many of them Ivan Provorov has attended since he started playing for the Flyers six-plus years ago. I really want to believe that hockey doesn’t hate the LGTBQ+ community. I really do. But then I see that Provorov’s sweater (not a jersey) sold out after he opted out of the warm-up on the Flyers’ Pride Night and it depresses me.”

THINKING OUT LOUD: It has to be awfully hard to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks these days what with the way ownership/management is treating head coach Bruce Boudreau. . . . The QMJHL’s 2022-23 Media Guide was available for download when the season got started. I’m told the OHL’s was ready sometime in November. The WHL’s isn’t available and the regular season is half over. Too bad, because its arrival once was a highlight of the season. . . . If you missed it, Boudreau, at the close of his post-game media availablity, said: “See you tomorrow . . . I hope.” The Canucks are at home to the Edmonton Oilers tonight, so this saga will get more play, this time on Hockey Night in Canada’s national stage. Unless a change is made early today. Oh, and the game will bring a conclusion to Hockey Day in Canada. . . . Bruce, there it is!


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Major news from WCHA schools brings back memories of CMJHL’s birth

There was major news in the world of NCAA Division 1 hockey on Friday when seven schools served notice that they are on the verge of taking their hockey programs out of WCHAthe 10-team WCHA and forming a new conference in time for the 2021-22 season.

Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan, all of which are located in Michigan, along with Bemidji State, Bowling Green and Minnesota State/Mankato want out, a move that would leave Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville as the only three schools left in the WCHA.

A statement released by the seven schools reads, in part:

“They are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.”

The seven schools, it seems, are tired of travelling to Alabama and Alaska.

As uncomfortable as it sounds, the seven schools would continue play in the WCHA through two more seasons before leaving for a new league.

At the same time, the future of the hockey programs at both Alaska schools has been in question for a few years due to financial issues. Those schools took another hit on Friday when Mike Dunleavy, the governor of Alaska, vetoed $130 million in state support.

Why was this potential move revealed on Friday?

Dr. Morris Kurtz, a former athletic director at St. Cloud, Minn., State, the spokesperson for the seven schools, told Austin Monteith of the Grand Forks Herald that WCHA bylaws call for a 25-month advance warning in situations involving future withdrawal, and that process now has begun.

Monteith’s complete story is right here.


All of this brought back memories of something I wrote a while back about the birth of what now is the Western Hockey League. Here it is, in its entirety. . . .

To find the beginning you have to return to June 21, 1966, and the opening day of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s annual general meeting.

Oh, there had been a lot of back-room chatter and negotiating prior to that, but it was on June 21 when the doors opened and the sun beat back the shadows.

It happened in Wasagaming, a resort community in Riding Mountain National Park, just north of Brandon.

Prior to then, Canadian teenagers who aspired to play junior hockey didn’t have a whole lot of options. What now is considered Junior A was the top rung.

But people like Winnipeg’s Ben Hatskin, ‘Wild’ Bill Hunter of Edmonton, Estevan’s Scotty Munro, Moose Jaw’s Brian Shaw and Regina’s Del Wilson had visions of a Prairie-wide league, centred in larger communities.

A few years later, some of those same men would dream of even bigger things as they became involved in the World Hockey Association and its attempts to sour the NHL’s world.

Most of them were larger-than-life characters who were years ahead of their time in terms of marketing. They were entrepreneurs and more. Dick Chubey of the Albertan, then a Calgary-based newspaper, wrote a piece for the league’s first Yearbook — for 1973-74 — in which he referred to them as “rogues” and “pirates.”

Ernie (Punch) McLean, who later would be the head coach of the New Westminster Bruins, says there wasn’t any doubt who were the leaders.

“Bill Hunter, Scotty Munro and Ben Hatskin . . .,” McLean, who in those days was with Munro in Estevan, said in a 1990 interview. “Scotty Munro would have the idea on hockey, Bill Hunter would sell it and Ben Hatskin would financially back it. Those were in the days when we had nothing else but Household Finance to get us started the next year.

“It was so much different back then. The guys were friends. We were partners.”

Four days prior to the start of the SJHL meeting, word leaked that a new junior league — the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League — was in the works. This league would include Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, along with Brandon, Estevan, Moose Jaw, Regina and Weyburn, the latter five having decided to leave the SJHL.

At the same time, there were issues with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and the National Hockey League.

“We were getting very disgusted with the CAHA,” McLean recalled. “We weren’t getting any help from them and they were taking a percentage off the gates in the playoffs. At that particular time, we weren’t getting what we felt was a fair deal from the National Hockey League.

“At that time, the CAHA was bringing in any team that they thought could come into the league. They would apply and we were supposed to look after them. Melville was in, Yorkton was coming in.

“So at Clear Lake . . . it was really funny. In those days, you had to pay your dues or you couldn’t vote, you never had a vote. As it happened, (SJHL president) Frank Boucher called the meeting to order. . . .”

When asked, Hunter and Munro said they didn’t have cheques. Boucher told both men, “You can’t vote.”

“It went around the table like that,” McLean said. “All of a sudden they said, ‘Well, I guess we have no meeting.’ And Frank says, ‘I guess we haven’t.’

“At that point, the guys got up from the table, walked across to another room in the hotel and formed a new league.”

It wasn’t quite that simple, but that, in effect, was the genesis of what now is the Western Hockey League, even if it meant places like Melville, Flin Flon and Swift Current were left scrambling.

“What the hell,” Brandon Wheat Kings coach Eddie Dorohoy said, “if Melville can’t afford the opera, they gotta go for the barn dance.”

The CMJHL finalized its lineup later that summer. Before then, Melville filed a lawsuit, asking for $250,000 in general damages and $8,800 in special damages. As well, Brandon pulled out, Saskatoon came in, Winnipeg left.

Interestingly, the Saskatoon Blades are the only franchise to have been there since Day 1. In 1966, the Blades were an affiliate of the Los Angeles Blades, a team in the professional WHL that had hoped to become an NHL expansion franchise. When that didn’t happen, Saskatoon slid into the CMJHL.

If you are looking for an ‘official’ date to mark the league’s birthday that would be July 15, 1966. That is when the teams met in Regina. Munro moved for the dissolution of the SJHL. The motion passed. A new league was formed, and it announced it would accept applications.

By now, Boucher had left the SJHL and was commissioner of the CMJHL. When the 1966-67 season began, it featured the Calgary Buffaloes, Edmonton Oil Kings, Estevan Bruins, Moose Jaw Canucks, Regina Pats, Saskatoon and the Weyburn Red Wings.

While all of this was going on, the CAHA was refusing to recognize the CMJHL, something that didn’t particularly disturb the newcomers.

“We had quite a league,” McLean said. “Of course, we were outlaws from the CAHA. We preferred to call it independent.”

After Edmonton finished atop the regular-season standings, Moose Jaw won the first playoff championship, the only such title in the city’s history. That playoff season included best-of-nine series without overtime. In one semifinal series, Moose Jaw took out Edmonton 3-2 with four ties.

Prior to 1967-68, the league changed its name to the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League. The Buffaloes became the Centennials, and the league, still unrecognized by the CAHA, welcomed Brandon, the Flin Flon Bombers, Swift Current Broncos and Winnipeg Jets.

The Bombers didn’t win the championship — Edmonton beat the Bombers, 4-0, with one tie, in the final — but the Flin Flon Flu was born.

“Paddy (Ginnell) went into Flin Flon and turned that franchise right around,” McLean said. “He made them a tough, aggressive hockey club. It was worth your life to go in there and play.”

How tough?

“We always played Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Flin Flon. Well, Saturday night, they beat the crap out of Swift Current, just pounded the hell out of them. So they called for a conference call,” McLean said of the Broncos, who were coached by Mike Shabaga.

“Mike said, ‘Things are so bad, I’ve got the Red Cross signs on the bus so we can get out of town.’

 “Anyway, Mike didn’t have enough players to play the game. So it was decided that so it would be fair to both sides, however many Mike could dress, that’s all Paddy could dress. Paddy moaned and groaned and the whole thing, and then Mike won the hockey game. Paddy came out of there, he was just livid.”

By the time the 1968-69 season arrived, the league — now calling itself the Western Canada Hockey League — was down to eight teams. Moose Jaw, Regina and Weyburn left because of concerns with the outlaw status. As well, the league split into divisions — East and West — for the first time.

Flin Flon, led by Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Chuck Arnason, won the decade’s last two championships, winning 89 of 120 regular-season games and twice beating Edmonton in the playoff final.

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