The WHL, Part 4: Winds of change, Ferraro lights it up, and a player for a bus . . .

At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 4 of 5, and it’s a long one (but not as long as Part 5). I hope you enjoy it. . . .

——

When the WHL headed into the 1981-82 season, which was the beginning of its fourth five-year segment, stability was not exactly a strong suit.

For example, of the 13 teams that came out of the gate in the fall of 1981, only two — the Portland Winter Hawks and Saskatoon Blades — wouldn’t undergo a change in ownership or location over the next 10 years.

But had you predicted the WHL would be as healthy and as stable as any league in existence just 10 years later, well, not many people wouldn’t have scoffed.

Hockey in the early 1980s was fighting to leave its fightin’ image behind.

The WHL was no different. The days of the Broad Street Bullies were coming to an end. Unfortunately for the WHL, it took some people longer than others to realize that.

BillLaForge
BILL LaFORGE

For starters, the Regina Pats hired Bill LaForge as their head coach on May 20, 1981. At the time, he was under an OHL-imposed suspension that was to last until Jan. 1, 1982. LaForge, while with the Oshawa Generals, had become physically involved with Peterborough coach Dave Dryden and then with Petes player Doug Evans in a pregame brawl.

Neither the suspension nor LaForge’s reputation scared off Regina general manager Bob Strumm, who gave LaForge a two-year contract.

Of his OHL suspension, LaForge said: “I’ve never been suspended in 12 years of coaching and I have no intention of it ever happening again.”

Before the 1981-82 season ended, LaForge would be suspended three times. And he would also be in a Lethbridge courtroom, facing an assault charge.

RussFarwell
RUSS FARWELL

At the same time, there were other changes that would mean a lot to this league as its history continued. For starters, Russ Farwell moved into

Calgary as the Wranglers assistant coach and assistant GM. He would later prove to be as astute as any hockey man who has ever sat behind a WHL desk.

An NHL team also became involved in the WHL at the ownership level. Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, purchased the New Westminster franchise and moved it to Kamloops as the Junior Oilers.

Pocklington owned 70 per cent, with 35 shareholders holding the rest.

“They seem to be an enthusiastic group,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “And a new building there in the future would be a plus for us. I know the franchise moved out of Kamloops in the past. But I think that was a case of people looking for greener pastures after seeing the success that was achieved in Portland.”

On Aug. 19, the WHL began shaping its office for the future when Richard Doerksen, the league statistician for three seasons who was named referee-in-chief midway in the 1980-81 season, was given the title of executive assistant.

There was an ugly incident in Medicine Hat on Oct. 14 when, during a bench-clearing brawl against the Lethbridge Broncos, Tigers general manager/coach Pat Ginnell got into it with linesman Gary Patzer. According to The Canadian Press, Ginnell “exchanged blows” with Patzer.

The next day, Medicine Hat RCMP laid an assault charge against Ginnell. One day later, Ginnell and Patzer were suspended indefinitely. Ginnell would later charge Patzer with assault, and both would plead not guilty. Ginnell eventually pleaded guilty and was fined $350, while the charge against Patzer was withdrawn by the Crown. Ginnell ended up serving a 36-game suspension.

SpokaneFlyers

There were serious problems in Spokane. And on Dec. 2, the WHL suspended the franchise. A proposed sale fell through and the 3-23-1 Flyers were done for the season.

One of the WHL’s great success stories began on Jan. 19, 1982, when, during meetings at the all-star game in Winnipeg, an expansion application from Prince Albert was accepted.

It was a sad night, March 23 was, in Regina. It was Fan Appreciation Night and by the time the ice chips cleared, the Pats and Calgary had done it up right. When the WHL office got through, the teams were hit with $1,250 in fines and 36 games in suspensions. Regina got 27 games and $1,000.

On April 8, it was revealed that Bill Zeitlin of Chicago, a minority owner with baseball’s White Sox, had bought the Billings Bighorns from Joe Sample for $300,000. Zeitlin promptly moved the team to Nanaimo.

Regina brawled its way into the WHL final, but not before LaForge landed in a Lethbridge courtroom.

LaForge became physically involved with Alfred Gurr, a fan, while players brawled on the ice during the first period of Game 1 of the East final.

LaForge was charged with assault causing bodily harm. Ultimately, LaForge was acquitted as the judge ruled it was hard to convict a person of assault for hitting “an obnoxious person trying to get into the coach’s area.”

Charges against the fan were dropped on June 22 when LaForge, the chief witness, didn’t appear in Lethbridge Provincial Court.

On April 29, Farwell was named GM of the Tigers and, just like that, the foundation was laid for back-to-back Memorial Cups.

Portland defeated visiting Regina 9-2, at home on May 2, to take the WHL final, 4-1. Regina was without Brent Pascal, Al Tuer and Dale Derkatch, who were suspended after a Game 4 brawl, the third time in the playoffs that the Pats were involved in a donnybrook.

Four days later, LaForge resigned. He later signed as GM/head coach in Kamloops.

KelownaWings

Kelowna got into the league when Kelowna Sports Enterprises Ltd., headed up by Chris Parker, was sold an expansion franchise. Parker had operated the BCJHL’s Penticton Knights. The Wings named Marc Pezzin coach and Joe Arling GM. The Wings were bad — really bad. They were 1-26-2 at the Christmas break.

On June 22, the WHL approved the sale of the Wranglers to Wilf Richard and Jim Kerr from Pat Shimbashi and the Calgary Flames.

RickHerbert

Regina landed defenceman Rick Herbert, 15, one of the most-wanted players in WHL history on Sept. 20, 1982, but it cost the Pats seven players. It happened during a draft that was held as teams cut their lists from 60 to 50 players. Regina traded Byron Lomow, Tim Brown and Kevin Pylypow to Kamloops for the draft’s third pick. Darryl Watts, Scott Wilson, Peter Hayden and Scott Gerla were given to Kelowna and the Wings agreed to pass on Herbert with the first pick. Due to draft rules, Prince Albert, with the second pick, couldn’t take Herbert. The Pats held pick No. 4.

Seattle picked up a 12-year-old from Thompson, Man., in that draft. His name? Glen Goodall.

On Oct. 18, the WHL admitted it had on file franchise applications from Moose Jaw, Edmonton, Red Deer and New Westminster. The Moose Jaw group included Lorne Humphreys, Bill Kelly, Jim Little, Barry Webster and Emmett Reidy. Other groups were headed by: Bill Burton and Ron Dixon, New Westminster; Vic Mah, Edmonton; and, Alf Cadman, Red Deer.

On Jan. 19, 1983, newspaper headlines everywhere read: Player swapped for bus.

Here’s what happened: The Seattle Breakers dealt the rights to left-winger Tom Martin to the Victoria Cougars for a used bus. “Actually, just the down payment,” said Breakers’ owner John Hamilton. “It might have been the best deal I ever made.”

TomMartin

At the time, Martin was playing at Denver University but said he wanted to play in his home town. The bus in question was purchased by the defunct Spokane Flyers from Trailways in 1981 for $60,000. The Flyers spent $15,000 on inside renovations. When that franchise folded, the Cougars bought the bus but it was sitting in the U.S., because Victoria was not prepared to pay customs, excise and sales taxes. Hamilton said he got the bus for Martin and $35,000.

Brandon owner Jack Brockest pulled the plug in March, selling the Wheat Kings to a group of local businessmen. “I simply, as an individual, could not have survived much longer,” said Brockest, who sold just four years after buying the franchise. Average attendance had fallen below the 1,500-mark.

Calgary lost out to Lethbridge in the East final, and Wranglers coach Doug Sauter resigned. He later signed with the AHL’s Springfield Indians.

Lethbridge went on to beat Portland in the WHL final. Both teams advanced to the Memorial Cup, the Winter Hawks getting in as host team. And, lo and behold, the Winter Hawks became the first host team to win the tournament.

On June 14, Bill Burton and Ron Dixon announced they had bought the Nanaimo franchise. They moved it to New Westminster. Yes, major junior hockey was back in Queen’s Park Arena.

On Aug. 28, Brandon traded centre Blaine Chrest to Portland for five players — centre Ray Ferraro, defenceman Brad Duggan, right-winger Derek Laxdal, and left-wingers Dave Thomlinson and Tony Horacek. Ferraro would set a WHL record with 108 goals and, in the process, may have saved the Brandon franchise.

As the 1983-84 season opened, it was revealed that a familiar face had returned to New Westminster. Bill Shinske was back as vice-president of operations.

Early in the season, Kamloops coach Bill LaForge, after beating Kelowna 7-5, said he was tired of facing little opposition: “It’s no fun taking two points off a team that gives you no resistance. They have no breakout, no forechecking, no system, nothing. The only adjustment you have to make is to duck.”

RayFerraro
RAY FERRARO

Meanwhile, out east, Ferraro was having a glorious season. He scored his 50th goal in his 32nd game, the second fastest 50 goals in WHL history. Bill Derlago had 50 in 27 games with Brandon in 1977-78. “The trade was the best thing that could have happened to me,” Ferraro said. “I wasn’t going to play that much in Portland. At the start of the season, we wrote down our goals and I wanted to have 35 goals by Christmas.”

It was a Merry Christmas in Moose Jaw as it was announced that Moose Jaw Tier One Inc. had purchased the Winnipeg Warriors Hockey Club Inc., and that the franchise would move for the 1984-85 season. Winnipeg would go on to finish with a 9-63-0 record, losing its last game 14-1 to visiting Regina on March 21.

LesJackson
LES JACKSON

Brawls were few and far between, but there was one with a difference in Regina on March 7. Brandon GM Les Jackson was fined $1,000 and suspended indefinitely for leaving the press box and attacking Strumm, Regina’s GM/coach, at the Pats’ bench, all this while players were fighting on the ice.

“I just wanted to let him know that if the kids are going to fight, I’m going to stick up for the guys, too,” Jackson said.

On March 12, Ferraro became the first player in WHL history to score 100 goals in a season when he scored twice in an 11-9 victory over visiting Winnipeg.

Swift Current was hot on the heels of another franchise, this time offering $360,000 to the Edmonton Oilers for Kamloops. Local businessmen rode to the rescue and kept junior hockey in Kamloops.

DeanEvason
The story in the playoffs had to do with the failure of the Pats. It’s
doubtful any team has ever been so close to the Memorial Cup and then not made it. Regina was 12 seconds away from eliminating Kamloops in the sixth game of the final. But Dean Evason tied the game 3-3 at 19:48 of the third period in Kamloops and Ryan Stewart won it at 13:03 of overtime. One night later, the Oilers won 4-2 and were off to the Memorial Cup.

Brian Ekstrom, president of Oakwood Petroleum, headed a group that purchased the Wranglers from Jim Kerr for $300,000. Kerr bought the team from Shimbashi in 1982 but still owed $200,000 to the former owner. Ekstrom didn’t renew Marcel Comeau’s contract as coach (Comeau went to Saskatoon), and named Hank Bassen as GM and Sandy Hucul as coach.

Another franchise changed hands in late May when Dennis Kjeldgaard and Al Foder bought Lethbridge from Ross McKibbon of Taber.

And in mid-June, Sauter returned to the WHL, this time as head coach in Medicine Hat.

In Regina, Herb Pinder Jr. assumed controlling interest of the Pats.

Before the 1984-85 season started, LaForge left Kamloops for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. Kamloops dipped into the midget coaching ranks in Sherwood Park, Alta., and signed Ken Hitchcock.

GlenGoodall
GLEN GOODALL (Photo: Seattle Thunderbirds)

Goodall, just 14, played his first game with the Seattle Breakers on Oct. 10, 1984. It was a 12-3 loss in Regina. “My parents were here tonight,” Goodall said, “and they’ll follow us around on the rest of our eastern swing, and they might take a trip out to Seattle and I’ll see them at Christmas, so it won’t be too bad.”

As for his first game, he said: “I thought I played OK in the third period. When you’re down by a lot of goals, it’s hard to keep it up.”

He would play 399 regular season games by the time his career ended.

A rivalry was born on Nov. 13, 1984, when Moose Jaw scored its first victory over Regina, winning 6-4 in Moose Jaw. But referee Darren Loraas was forced to call the game with 26 seconds left.

“I was surprised and disappointed,” Moose Jaw head coach Graham James said. “I thought the league was past that. It’s not necessary to play like that. The whole thing was disgusting. If Bob (Strumm) really wants to do battle like that, let the generals do the fighting and let’s leave the troops on the bench. We’re trying to sell the game here and I don’t think this helps it.”

The Pats were fined $1,500 and hit with 21 games in suspension; Moose Jaw got $200 and four games.

The under-age draft was playing havoc in Portland, where the Winter Hawks were missing a few players. Here’s Portland co-owner/GM Brian Shaw: “We should have had 11 returning players this year from the team that won the Memorial Cup. We have one — John Kordic — and that’s through no fault of our own.” Ken Yaremchuk, Richard Kromm, Alfie Turcotte and Cam Neely were in the NHL, while five other players walked away from the game.

The Winter Hawks gained some publicity, too, when their policy on drug and alcohol use was revealed. Here’s Shaw, again: “Everybody says there’s drugs in sport and nobody does anything about it. We are trying to do something about it. We take urine tests approximately every two weeks, and we also take spot tests, to assure ourselves that there’s no alcohol or drug involvement.”

Shaw said parents were fully aware of all of this: “We sent them a letter saying: “For the benefit of your boy and our organization each boy takes a urine test.” If he wants to refuse to take the test, he can do it. Nobody refuses . . . why would they want to refuse?” And, according to Shaw, no parents objected.

On Dec. 3, Prince Albert, in its third season, moved into first place in the East for the first time. The Raiders got into the WHL for $100,000 and then paid $75,000 for what was left of Spokane’s player list. You see, when the dispersal draft of the Flyers was held on Dec. 3, 1981, WHL teams were allowed to select only players on the active roster. The Raiders, then, bought the list and got three future stars — centre Dan Hodgson, right-winger Dave Pasin and defenceman Manny Viveiros.

CliffRonning
CLIFF RONNING

On Dec. 12, New Westminster’s Cliff Ronning set a WHL record with a goal in his 16th consecutive game, a 3-2 home-ice victory over Medicine Hat.

It was revealed in January that Seattle owner John Hamilton was having financial problems and — surprise, surprise — Swift Current made him an offer.

“When I got into the hockey business, I was $60,000 short of being a millionaire,” Hamilton said. “Now I’d take the $60,000.” He said he had lost $500,000 since getting involved in 1979.

Swift Current struck out, again, on Jan. 14 when the WHL board of governors, not wanting to lose a West Division team, voted against the sale of the Breakers.

Hallelujah! On Jan. 22, 1985, the WHL did away with round-robin series in the playoffs, choosing to go strictly with best-of-five/seven series in the East, and best-of-nines in the West.

Rumours involving Swift Current surfaced in late March when the Bank of Nova Scotia asked the Wheat Kings for a written financial plan. Swift Current would strike out again when three Brandon businessmen bought the team.

TerrySimpson
TERRY SIMPSON

The Raiders, 16-55-1 and last in their first season, were 41-29-2 and fifth the next season. In their third season, though, they went 58-11-3 and went on to win the WHL championship, sweeping Kamloops in the final.

“Winning the world championship was a thrill, but winning the WHL title is more satisfying,” said Terry Simpson, the Prince Albert GM/head coach who had led Canada to a world junior gold medal earlier in the year. The Raiders then won the Memorial Cup, cruising past the Shawinigan Cataractes 6-1 in the final game.

New Westminster beat Victoria 5-4 on March 22 and Ronning had four assists, giving him 197 points, one more than the WHL record set by Brandon’s Brian Propp in 1978-79.

 In April, the WHL announced 12-year-olds were no longer eligible for its player lists. The league also decided to allow its teams to use three 20-year-olds, rather than two, in the 1985-86 season.

On April 2, the WHL took over the Seattle franchise, later selling it to Calgary businessman Earl Hale.

HerbPinderJr
HERB PINDER JR.

The end of Pinder’s association with the Pats began on May 1 with a story in the Regina Leader-Post. The May 1 story began: “Regina Pats fans are going to have to dip into their pockets for an extra dollar to cover parking charges announced by the Pats’ landlord, the Regina Exhibition Association.”

Pinder said he was “very disappointed and very concerned” by the decision. “We’re disappointed because they made a policy and then came and told us after it was in place.”

On May 6, Strumm resigned as GM/head coach in Regina, ending a six-year association with the Pats. He later accepted an offer to join the Sudbury Wolves but changed his mind before leaving for the Ontario city.

And there was trouble brewing in Moose Jaw where James was offered a position as co-coach and assistant GM by general manager Barry Trapp. Here’s James: “The bottom line is they took away my head-coaching position and that is a breach of contract. I can’t work with Barry Trapp anymore.”

James resigned shortly thereafter, saying: “I didn’t quit as head coach. They took that away from me.” He later sued the Warriors for breach of contract, a suit that was settled before it got to court.

For the first time since the fall of 1975, the WHL was ready to open a season with the same teams that finished the previous season.

But before 1985-86 could begin Vic Fitzgerald, now the majority owner in Kelowna, moved to Spokane.

Pat Ginnell was back in the WHL, this time as head coach in New Westminster. On Sept. 11, in their first exhibition game, the Bruins brawled with Seattle in Chilliwack. Ginnell was suspended for five games and fined $500. He was also told that another bench-clearing incident would cost him 25 games and $2,500.

On Oct. 10, the WHL made half-visors mandatory for all players.

As the season began there were ominous signs in Regina. In 1984-85, there were only four (of 36) regular-season crowds under 2,000. In October of 1985, there had already been five crowds under that figure.

BillHicke
BILL HICKE

Regina businessman Bill Hicke, a former NHL and WHA player, admitted he almost bought the Pats in June for $450,000. But he said he wouldn’t pay that for the team in November with its apparent problems.

Hicke said the Pats were faring poorly at the gate because of poor marketing strategy and low season-ticket sales.

“I think the Pats have to get more aggressive in marketing,” he explained. “They don’t have enough people to do the marketing now. You have to go knocking on doors. I know, for a fact, that they’ve sold only 600 season tickets. I have three partners who would sell 500 season tickets apiece.”

On Nov. 21, John Chapman was fired as head coach in Lethbridge. He was in his sixth season with the Broncos. Earl Jessiman replaced him.

In New Westminster, there was a changing of the dinosaurs — Ginnell was out, replaced by Ernie McLean who said hockey has “gone too much European . . . and I don’t agree with it. I still believe in the Boston style of hockey.”

Things really started to happen in Regina in mid-December. First, GM/head coach Bill Moores confirmed that the Pats had informed their landlord, in writing, that they intended to vacate the Agridome by Jan. 6. By this stage, the team and the Regina Exhibition Association were embroiled in a messy lease negotiation, not the least of which concerned paid parking.

It was evident that Pinder intended to sell the franchise to Swift Current. Moores scheduled practice ice at various Regina arenas and made plans to move to Swift Current in mid-January.

On Dec. 30, Pinder ordered the postponement of the Pats’ first home game of 1986. Chynoweth agreed with the decision: “We thought it would be in the best interests of everyone to cancel the game until the situation is settled.”

But on Jan. 13 the WHL’s board of governors rejected Pinder’s sale of the Pats to Swift Current, choosing instead to purchase the franchise itself.

Hicke, still interested in buying the Pats, said he felt sorry for the people of Swift Current: “I believe down the line that Swift Current deserves a team, but they don’t deserve the oldest team in the league.”

By now, the Swift Current people had at one time or another tried to buy Winnipeg, Brandon, Kamloops, Kelowna, Seattle and Regina.

Ironically, on Jan. 14, about 12 hours after Pinder announced the sale of the Pats to the WHL, the exhibition association said it was dropping its controversial $1 parking fee for Pats games. Mike Kelly, REA general manager, explained: “We feel this is a positive step. While the Pats are in this transition period, we’d like to help out.”

To which Pinder responded: “I think the paid parking has ruined our business and I’ve had to relinquish our business.”

In late February, the WHL sold the Pats to four Regina businessmen — Hicke, Morley Gusway, Ted Knight and Jack Nicolle.

KenHitchcock
KEN HITCHCOCK (Photo: Kamloops Daily News)

Meanwhile, it was business as usual around the league. In Queen’s Park Arena, for example, Kamloops head coach Ken Hitchcock was seen, according to The Canadian Press, “holding a hand over his eye to mock New Westminster’s one-eyed mentor, Ernie McLean, while McLean brandished a sign depicting the heavy-set Hitchcock as a pig eating hotdogs.” They were later fined $250 each.

And still the Swift Current people weren’t done because on Feb. 23, 1986, Dennis Kjeldgaard revealed the Broncos were for sale.

Guess what! Yes, the WHL brought back the round-robin format, this time deciding that the East’s top six teams would play in a home-and-home round-robin with the top four teams moving on. This would prove to be a disaster, and last just one season.

On March 25, Chynoweth suffered a mild heart attack and was in intensive care in a Calgary hospital. He would return to work, on a part-time basis, early in May.

Finally, Swift Current was in. On April 11, the WHL returned to Swift Current when a group headed by Rittinger purchased the Broncos from Kjeldgaard and Foder.

And Strumm was back in the WHL, this time as the GM in Spokane. Chapman was back, too, as GM in Calgary.

But Lethbridge wasn’t done. By May 1, city officials had contacted Chynoweth, stating their desire for another franchise.

Swift Current moved quickly to get its organization moving. Rittinger announced on May 1 that James would be the club’s GM/head coach.

The WHL final featured Kamloops and Medicine Hat, the latter making the first of what would be three straight trips to the final. This time, Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight, taking the last one 7-2 on May 5.

There wouldn’t be a WHL team in the Memorial Cup final — the OHL’s Guelph Platers beat the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques, 6-2 — but Medicine Hat would solve that problem next season. And the season after that.

NEXT: Part 5 of 5.

Raiders can win WHL title tonight. . . . Giants hope to make some history. . . . Hudak wins Cranbrook by-election


ThisThat

John Hudak, who was the spokesperson for the Green Bay Committee that attempted to help keep the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, won a seat on Cranbrook’s City Council in a by-election that was completed on Saturday. . . . Final preliminary results, as released by the City of Cranbrook, had Hudak with 1,115 votes (45.9 per cent of the vote), well ahead of Ron Miles, who was second at 518, and three other candidates. . . . The by-election was the result of Danielle Eaton having resigned in January. . . . A retired RCMP officer, Hudak was part of the Green Bay Committee, a group comprising mostly local businessmen who offered to sell sponsorships and season tickets in an attempt to benefit the Ice. However, the committee, which said it quickly sold $50,000 worth of sponsorships and tickets, disbanded when it realized that it wasn’t going to get any co-operation from the WHL team’s owners. . . . The Ice relocated to Winnipeg when its season ended.


There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping by here, why not consider donating to the cause? Thank you very much.


The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies won the QMJHL championship with a 4-0 victory over the qmjhlhost Halifax Mooseheads on Saturday. The Huskies won the series, 4-2. . . . Huskies G Samuel Harvey stopped 28 shots to earn the shutout. Harvey, who is in his fifth season with the Huskies, has 20 career shutouts — 15 in the regular season and five in the playoffs. He put up four of those playoff shutouts in these playoffs. . . . Both teams will appear in the Memorial Cup as the Mooseheads are the host team. . . . This is the 11th straight season in which the host team for the Memorial Cup hasn’t been able to win its league championship.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Giants arrived back in Prince Albert on Saturday afternoon and will resume the WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup with Game 6 tonight (Sunday) at the Art Hauser Centre. . . . The Raiders lead the series, 3-2, and can win the second championship in franchise history — the first came in 1985 — with a victory tonight. . . . Should the Giants win tonight — and they won Game 5, 4-3, on Friday in Langley, B.C. — Game 7 would be played on Monday night in Prince Albert. . . .

Following the conclusion of Game 5 in Langley on Friday, fans in Prince Albert began lining up at the Art Hauser Centre at 11 p.m., with tickets for Games 6 and 7 going on sale Saturday morning. . . . Late Friday night, the Raiders advised fans via Twitter: “Tickets for Game 7 are non-refundable. If a Game 7 isn’t necessary, the tickets can be used as a voucher for any regular-season game in the 2019-20 season.” . . . Now I don’t know how much a ticket to Game 7 was selling for, but I have to think one of those tickets would be worth a whole lot more than one regular-season game. Wouldn’t it? . . .

If the Giants are to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup, they are going to have to do something that has been accomplished only once before in WHL history. . . . There have been 11 championship finals go to Game 7; the first 10 were won by the home team. The last final to need Game 7 was in 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings became the first team in WHL history to win Game 7 on the road. They beat the Portland Winterhawks, 4-2. . . .

Here is a look at the previous WHL championship series that have been decided in Game 7 . . .

1975 — The Saskatoon Blades actually won the first two games of what was an eight-point final — in other words, no OT — beating the New Westminster Bruins twice in legendary Queen’s Park Arena. The Bruins then won twice in Saskatoon, before the Blades won Game 5 at home. Back in New Westminster, the Bruins won, 4-1 and 7-2, to take the series, 8-6.

1976 — This also was an eight-point series featuring the Saskatoon Blades and New Westminster Bruins. The teams played to a 3-3 tie in Game 6 in New Westminster and the Bruins won Game 7, 3-1, the next night, winning the series, 9-5.

1981 — The Calgary Wranglers led the Victoria Cougars, 3-1, before the bottom fell out. The Cougars came back with 7-4 and 4-2 victories in Calgary, then won Game 7 at home, 4-2. This is the series that featured goaltenders Grant Fuhr (Victoria) and Mike Vernon (Calgary).

1984 — The Regina Pats won the middle three games at home to go ahead of the Kamloops Blazers, 3-2. The scene shifted to Kamloops where the Blazers won, 4-3 in OT and 4-2. In Game 6, the Pats were 12 seconds from winning the championship when Kamloops F Dean Evason tied the game. F Ryan Stewart later won it at 13;13 of OT.

1987 —The Medicine Hat Tigers and Portland Winterhawks played a 3-3-1 format and were all even going back to Alberta for Game 7 after the Tigers won Game 6, 4-3. Back home, the Tigers won Game 7, 6-2.

1992 — The Kamloops Blazers took a 3-1 lead over the Saskatoon Blades in a final that used a 3-3-1 format. The Blades won Games 5 and 6 (5-1 and 4-3) at home. The Blazers won it all by taking Game 7, 8-0, at home.

1993 — The Portland Winterhawks led the series, 3-2, over the Swift Current Broncos after a 3-1 victory in Game 5 in Oregon. The Broncos won Game 6, 7-5, in Portland, then went home and posted a 6-0 victory in Game 7.

1994 — For the third straight season, the WHL final went seven games, and for the second time in three seasons it featured the Kamloops Blazers and Saskatoon Blades. Using a 2-3-2 format, Kamloops won twice at home and then took Game 4 in Saskatoon for a 3-1 lead. The Blades tied it by winning 3-2 at home and 2-1 in Kamloops, but the Blazers took Game 7, 8-1, at home.

2007 — For the first time in 13 years, the WHL final went seven games. This time, it featured the Vancouver Giants and Medicine Hat Tigers. The Giants took a 3-2 series lead on the strength of three shutouts — 1-0, 4-0 and 3-0 — from G Tyson Sexsmith. But the Tigers went home for the last two games and won them both — 4-3 and 3-2 in double OT, the latter on a goal by F Brennan Bosch.

2012 — The Edmonton Oil Kings won Game 5, 4-3, at home to take a 3-2 lead over the Portland Winterhawks, who went home and won Game 6, 3-2, two nights later. The series shifted to Edmonton for Game 7 and the Oil Kings won, 4-1.

2014 — It was the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks one more time. Portland won twice at home, then Edmonton did the same. The Oil Kings won Game 5, 3-2, in Portland, only to have the Winterhawks go into Edmonton and win Game 6, 6-5 in OT. The Oil Kings won the final with a 4-2 road victory in Game 7. The WHL’s first season was 1966-67. The Oil Kings are the only team in the league’s history to have won Game 7 of a championship series on the road.

(NOTE: Thanks to Dean (Scooter) Vrooman, the legendary former play-by-play voice of the Winterhawks, for laying the groundwork for all of this.)


Tweetoftheday

Saskatchewan tragedy touches Humboldt Broncos . . . Evason on way back to NHL . . . Will Rockets be doing the haka?

MacBeth

F Brad Ross (Portland, 2007-12) signed a one-year contract extension with Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2). Last season, he had 10 goals and 18 assists in 49 games. . . .

F Sergei Drozd (Tri-City, 2009-10) signed a one-year contract with Yunost Minsk (Belarus, Extraliga). Last season, with Dinamo Minsk (Belarus, KHL), he had two goals and four assists in 45 games. . . .

F Chris Langkow (Spokane, Saskatoon, Everett, 2005-10) signed a one-year contract with MAC Budapest (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). Last season, with the Worcester Railers (ECHL), he had 18 goals and 27 assists in 50 games. On loan to the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL), he had one goal and one assist in seven games. He was second on Worcester in assists and points.


Ex-Humboldt player, family killed in crash

Troy Gasper, a former Humboldt Broncos forward, his wife and their three young children were killed in a two-vehicle accident north of Elrose, Sask., on Friday afternoon.

Gasper, 26, his wife Carissa, 28, and their children — Kael, 6, Shea, 4, and Maks, 2 — were killed when two SUVs collided on Highway 4.

The driver of the other vehicle, a 71-year-old woman from Swift Current, also died in the accident.

The Gaspers were from Rosetown, which is just south of Elrose. Gasper played two seasons (2009-11) with the Broncos. He then played four seasons with the senior Rosetown Redwings. The Moose Jaw Warriors selected him in the ninth round of the WHL’s 2007 bantam draft, but he never played in the WHL.

Troy was a salesman at Western Sales Ltd., a John Deere dealership, while Carissa worked for her father’s accounting business.

Troy’s father, Doug, is a veteran scout. He joined the Moose Jaw Warriors in 2007, moved to assistant head scout in 2012 and was director of scouting for two seasons (2015-17). He left the Warriors last summer to join the scouting staff of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.


Scattershooting

Somehow I missed a move back to the NHL by former WHL player and coach Dean Evason. After six seasons as head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, Evason has signed on as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild. . . . Evason, 53, was the Kamloops Blazers’ head coach for three seasons (1999-2002) and the Vancouver Giants for two (2002-04), then spent 2004-05 with the Calgary Hitmen. He was an assistant coach for seven seasons with the NHL’s Washington Capitals before heading to Milwaukee. . . . While in Washington, he worked under head coach Bruce Boudreau, who now is the Wild’s head coach. . . . Evason was prolific scorer with the Kamloops Jr. Oilers, putting up 164 points, including 71 goals, in 70 games in 1982-83 and 137 points, 49 of them goals, in 57 games in 1983-84.


Karl Taylor is the new head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. He spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . In 2013-14, Taylor was an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks.



If you weren’t aware, Kelowna Rockets assistant coach Travis Crickard is spending part of his off-season in New Zealand. There is a rumour out there that this will lead the Rockets to perform the haka before home games in 2018-19.


Here is Jack Finarelli (sportscurmudgeon.com) with a couple of Detroit Lions-related notes:

“To give you an idea of the futility of the Lions as a franchise, the team has been in the NFL for 89 seasons (since 1930). Over that time, the Lions winningest coach is Wayne Fontes and Fontes’ career record with the Lions was 66-67-0.

“Here is another Lions’ oddity. Since the merger of the NFL and the AFL in 1970, no head coach of the Lions was ever a head coach for another NFL team after Detroit fired him. It is almost as if the rest of the league doesn’t want to risk that sort of taint on their franchise. Welcome to Detroit, Matt Patricia. . . .”


“Derek Jeter has put the 115-year-old Tiedemann Castle — his residence on Greenwood Lake, N.Y., during his Yankee playing days — on the market for US$14.75 million,” notes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “It features a 12,590-square-foot home, six bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, one pool, one lagoon and one replica of the Statue of Liberty but, alas, no gift baskets.”


Garrett Rank, an NHL referee, qualified for and played in golf’s U.S. Open earlier this year. At one point, he heard someone in the gallery yell: “Call more slashing on Pittsburgh!”


A note from Cam Hutchinson of the Saskatoon Express: “Ex-New England mafia boss Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme was convicted last week for the 1993 murder of a nightclub owner. I’ve always thought mobsters have the best nicknames.” . . . Methinks Hutchinson loved The Sopranos.


One more from Hutchinson: “A survey found 50 per cent of Internet users will quit waiting for a video to load after 10 seconds. I wait five — tops.”


Vancouver comic Torben Rolfsen wonders: “Does Barry Trotz get to rejoin the Capitals for their Kremlin visit?”


“The Milwaukee Brewers have promised their famous racing sausages will compete ‘beyond 2018’ with new sponsor Johnsonville,” reports RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “It reassured fans who had feared for the wursts.”


The Kansas City Royals are in the tank and soon to start wheeling and dealing as a rebuild gets started. As Currie puts it: “Call it the Royal weeding.”

%d bloggers like this: