Does Randy Moller hold the WHL record for most goals in one game by a defenceman? If so, why hasn’t the record portion of the WHL Guide credited Moller with a five-goal game?
According to the WHL Guide, the record for most goals in one game by a defenceman is four, and is shared by seven players:
Ron Greschner of the New Westminster Bruins (Dec. 10, 1972, in a 9-4 victory over the host Edmonton Oil Kings);
Deron Quint of the Seattle Thunderbirds (March 2, 1995, in a 6-3 victory over the host Tri-City Americans);
Sergei Klimentiev of the Medicine Hat Tigers (March 12, 1995, in a 4-3 victory over the host Lethbridge Hurricanes);
Justin Kurtz of the Brandon Wheat Kings (Feb. 28, 1997, in a 6-5 loss to the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors);
Nathan Paetsch of Moose Jaw (Jan. 26, 2002, in a 7-1 victory over the visiting Swift Current Broncos);
Richie Regehr of the Portland Winter Hawks (Nov. 27, 2002, in a 10-2 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars); and,
Braydon Coburn of Portland (Feb. 4, 2005, in a 7-4 victory over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds).
However, Mark Weninger, a longtime Lethbridge hockey fan, has discovered that Moller, a defenceman who played two seasons (1980-82) with the Lethbridge Broncos, has a five-goal game to his credit.
Weninger is writing a book on the Broncos, who spent 12 seasons (1974-86) in Lethbridge before being sold and moving to Swift Current.
During his research, Weninger spent a lot of time poring over back issues of the Lethbridge Herald, and he happened upon a story in which writer Randy Jensen detailed a March 7, 1982, game in which the Broncos edged visiting Moose Jaw, 7-6. Moller struck for five of the seven Lethbridge goals.
“Moller scored five times, including the winner,” Jensen wrote, adding that Moller’s brother, Mike, “set him up on four of his goals.”
“I haven’t scored that many goals since peewee,” Randy told Jensen. “From bantam on, I never had more than three goals. I just got the breaks tonight.”
Moller, who had scored four goals in 46 games in 1980-81, finished 1981-82 with 20 goals.
The Quebec Nordiques selected Moller in the first round, 11th overall, of the NHL’s 1981 draft. He went on to play 815 regular-season NHL games, the first seven with Quebec. He also played with the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers before retiring after the 1994-95 season. Now 58, Moller is on the Panthers’ broadcast crew.
But despite scoring five goals in one game, he isn’t in the WHL Guide as having scored more goals in one game than any defenceman in league history.
Hmmm . . . over to you, WHL.
It has been interesting watching Major League Baseball teams move players to the restricted list before they depart for Toronto and games with the Blue Jays.
Players need to be vaccinated in order to come into Canada — just like the Blue Jays have to be vaccinated to get into the U.S. — and it seems that most teams have three or four who have consulted with Dr. Google and decided not to bother.
And then there are the Kansas City Royals, who are scheduled to open a four-game series in Toronto today.
A MLB team carries 26 players on its roster; the Royals placed 10 players on the restricted list. Yes, there are 10 players in that locker room who aren’t vaccinated — OF Andrew Benintendi, P Dylan Coleman, 3B Hunter Dozier, C Cam Gallagher, OF Kyle Isbel, P Brad Keller, C MJ Melendez, 2B Whit Merrifield, P Brady Singer and OF Michael A. Taylor.
The Royals also will be missing some coaches for the same reason, although the team hadn’t released their names as of Wednesday night.
At some point prior to Thursday’s game, the Royals will announce the names of the 10 players from the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers who will be added for the games in Toronto.
“It’s an individual choice,” Royals manager Mike Matheny told reporters on Wednesday. “The organization’s done a real good job bringing in professionals and experts to talk guys through tough conversations and then put it in their hands to make the decisions they believe is best for them and their families.”
Merrifield explained his decision: “It was a choice I made talking with my family, talking with my wife. I didn’t think that the risk was worth it, honestly. . . . I don’t feel like COVID is a threat to me.”
Merrifield also claimed to have “had a really dear friend of mine die of COVID-19 . . . It’s something that I’ve taken seriously.”
Of course, he admitted that a trade could change his thought process.
“That might change down the road,” he told The AP. “If something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes. As we sit here right now, I’m comfortable with my decision.”
Dozier, meanwhile, had COVID-19 during the 2020 season and even missed some games. He said Wednesday that he “doesn’t do any vaccines,” but added that he’s “not against vaccines.”
Dozier explained: “I live a healthy lifestyle. I work out. I want my body to naturally fight stuff off.”
A player on the restricted list doesn’t get paid and isn’t credited with service time.
The lost pay for the 10 unvaccinated #Royals, per @AP_Sports: Benintendi: $186,813 Merrifield: $153,846 Keller: $106,044 Dozier: $98,901 Taylor: $98,901 Gallagher: $19,451 Singer: $15,962 Isbel: $15,426 Coleman: $15,399 Melendez: $15,385
If we had a dollar for every American who doesn't understand that their country has the same vaccination rules as Canada, we might be able to end world hunger. We're months into the most tired baseball narrative I've seen in years.
THINKING OUT LOUD: With John Schneider now managing the Toronto Blue Jays, perhaps the players will start to act like the professionals they are supposed to be. Get rid of the home run jacket and forget about those dumb post-game water/Gatorade showers. That stuff got old more than a few weeks ago. . . . You know what is a lot of fun these days? Watching the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners make some noise in MLB’s wild-card races after being down and out seemingly forever. . . . According to the gang at capfriendly.com, the first day of NHL free agency included 153 player signings valued at a total of US$919,175,000 and covering 314 years. F Ondrej Palat signed with the New Jersey Devils to begin Day 2 and that $30-million deal pushed the total of $949,175,000. Yes, it seems some of the teams in Gary Bettman’s league are rolling in dough.
THE COACHING GAME:
Jim Hiller, a former WHL coach, has joined the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach, filling the vacancy created when Marco Sturm was named head coach of the NHL’s teams AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign. . . . Hiller, 53, has been an assistant coach with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and, for the past three seasons, the New York Islanders. . . . He has coached in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans and Chilliwack Bruins (remember them?). . . . Hiller, a defenceman, was selected by the Kings in the 10th round of the NHL’s 1989 draft and went on to play 40 games with them in 1992-93. . . . He played three games with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders in 1986-87 before going on to Northern Michigan U. . . .
The BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks have added Josh Dubinsky to their staff as an assistant coach. He had been an assistant coach with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers after also working with the NAHL’s Kenai River Brown Bears.
The Tri-City Americans have hired Aaron Hoffmeyer as their equipment manager. He has experience with the U.S. National Team Development Program and most recently was head equipment manager with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals for two seasons.
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— Victoria Cougars Hockey Project (@victoriacougars) July 1, 2022
Archie Henderson, a legendary figure from the WHL’s past, will retire from his role as the Edmonton Oilers’ director of pro scouting after the NHL draft that is to be held in Montreal on Thursday and Friday. Henderson, 65, has been with the Oilers through three seasons. He had been with Detroit but moved to Edmonton when Ken Holland left the Red Wings to join the Oilers as their general manager. . . . The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Henderson played 23 NHL games after being a 10th-round selection by the Washington Capitals in the 1977 draft. . . . A native of Calgary, he played three seasons (1974-77) in the WHL — 86 games with the Lethbridge Broncos and 78 with the Victoria Cougars. In those 164 games, he totalled 26 goals, 29 assists and 700 — yes, 700! — penalty minutes. . . .
On Nov. 19, 1974, Henderson was involved in one of the most memorable scraps in WHL history. The Broncos were in Regina to play the Pats, who had a guy named Bob Poley in their lineup. At the time, the 6-foot-4, 244-pound Poley was a defensive end with the junior Regina Rams, but was still four years from starting his CFL career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. On this day, he was four days past his 19th birthday, while Henderson was two years younger. . . . Regina was leading 5-2 at 14:20 of the second period when Henderson and Poley came together. . . . Gyle Konotopetz, then of the Regina Leader-Post, wrote that Henderson “picked a fight” with Poley, who had never fought while wearing skates. “When Henderson dropped his gloves, Poley was caught off-guard,” Konotopetz wrote. “But, after taking a couple of punches, Poley tackled Henderson as if he were playing defensive end for the Rams and returned a few of his own punches.” . . . Later, Henderson said: “The second time I hit him I thought I knocked him out, but then he just nailed me. Where’d they get him anyway? Boy, is he strong.” . . . Yes, the fans booed Henderson, who said: “I think the fans are a little unreal here. He can’t even skate. At least I can play hockey.” . . . Earl Ingarfield, then the Broncos’ head coach, said Regina coach Bob Turner had put Foley on the ice “for a reason. That took the sting out of us. . . . It’s a good thing (Henderson) fell. (Poley) would have beaten the (bleep) out of Archie.” . . . Turner felt Poley, who hadn’t gotten even one shift as the Pats had lost their previous three games, had given his club “the shot in the arm we needed.” . . . The Pats went on to win the game, 9-3, to move within one point of the second-place Broncos in the Eastern Division. The starting goaltenders were a couple of guys who would go on to become rather well-known— Ed Staniowski of the Pats and Lorne Molleken of the Broncos.
By now, perhaps you’re wondering how it was that Bob Poley ended up wearing a Regina Pats’ uniform.
Well, in 1974-75, the legendary Norm Fong, who would go on to a lengthy career as the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ equipment manager, was the Pats’ trainer/equipment manager; one person did both jobs back in the day. Fong also played some Friday night hockey, as did Poley and Roger Aldag, another aspiring football player.
Bob Turner, the Pats’ coach, was in the market for some size and toughness. One night he asked Fong if any of “those Rams kids . . . do any of them skate?”
So . . . Fong spoke with both of them.
“Roger didn’t want to have anything to do with it,” Fong recalled, “but Poley jumped at the chance.”
Poley dressed for his first game on Nov. 15, 1974 — a 6-6 tie with the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings — but didn’t see even one shift.
That led to the encounter with Lethbridge’s Archie Henderson on Nov. 19. Then, on March 11, the New Westminster Bruins went into Regina and came out with a 5-5 tie. The Bruins wound up in a post-game altercation with a Regina broadcaster after that one and coach Ernie (Punch) McLean ended up with a five-game suspension.
“It almost has reached the point where you have to go out and recruit some big stupid guy who can beat up everybody else,” Turner said after that one.
Ten days later, the Pats were in New Westminster. The Bruins won, 6-1, on March 21. The Pats beat the Cougars, 4-2, in Victoria the next night, then returned to New Westminster for a rematch on March 23 in McLean’s first game back from his suspension.
“We were playing in New West and Kerry Fraser was the ref,” Fong recalled. “They always pulled that crap where they’d have one of their guys shoot a puck in your end and then they’d come get the puck and challenge everybody. Poley shot a puck into the New West end and went and got it . . . and nobody touched him.”
Poley didn’t get a lot of ice time; in fact, his first shift came late in the game.
“With just over four minutes remaining in the game,” wrote Lyndon Little of the Vancouver Sun, “Turner sent 6-foot-5, 235-pound Bob Poley lurching off the bench to line up against Harold Phillipoff, one of the biggest of the Bruins. A former member of the Regina Rams . . . Poley — known affectionately as the Hulk from Hudson’s Bay — was along on the road trip, Turner candidly admits, to straighten out the Bruins.”
Turner told Little: ““I sent him out there to kick the bleep out of Phillipoff. I didn’t like the way he was picking on Mike McCann.”
“But,” Little wrote, “with the fans pleading for what they felt would be a classic matchup, McLean prudently replaced Phillipoff. And so the jockeying continued for the remainder of the game. Whenever Poley came on, Phillipoff would withdraw, despite the fact the Regina player was pointedly challenging the New Westminster bench.”
McLean explained his thought process: “I’m not going to risk having one of my best players break his hand on that guy’s skull. If I tried a crazy stunt like that I’d be suspended for life.”
At the time, Philipoff had 26 goals and 31 assists. Poley played 25 games with zero points and five penalty minutes to show for it. Then, in 11 playoff games, he had 10 PiMs.
But wait . . . there’s more . . .
“At the end of the game, they were lipping off and Poley went over to their bench,” Fong said. “All our guys are crapping themselves on their way to the dressing room and Poley’s out there . . . the whole New West team is in their bench and he’s chasing them into their locker room. Kerry Fraser comes over and says, ‘Bob (Turner), you’ve got to come out here and get this . . . monster off the ice. He’s chasing those guys into their dressing room.’ But nobody would fight him.”
Ahh, yes, those were the days, weren’t they?
On the day the CHL held its 2023 import draft, there were reports in the Russian media that G Ivan Fedotov of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers had been detained in Russia.
According to Joshua Manning of euroweeklynews.com, Fedotov “has been detained over suspicions of ‘dodging the Russian Army.’ ” He apparently was taken to a military registration and enlistment office.
Fedotov, 25, played this season in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. The team won the Gagarin Cup as KHL champions.
In April, Fedotov said he would be playing with the Flyers next season.
Of course, news like this makes one wonder if there might be more Russian players in this same situation. That also likely is why some players, like Flyers D Ivan Provorov, who played with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, chose not to return to Russia this offseason.
Two Russian players and one from Belarus were among 64 selected by teams in the CHL’s 2022 import draft on Friday.
Wait a minute, you’re saying. Didn’t the CHL announce in April that Russians and Belarusians were ineligible for the draft, thanks to the invasion of Ukraine?
Well, as the CHL news release wrapping up the draft pointed out: “All non-(20-year-old), import players that were previously drafted in the CHL import draft but were deleted by a CHL team before the 2022 cut-down date were eligible to be re-drafted by another CHL club in the 2022 import draft.”
The Brandon Wheat Kings used their first-round selection on Russian D Andrei Malyavin, 18, who played last season with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. He had two goals and 11 assists in 44 games.
JUST NOTES: Nine of the CHL’s 60 teams didn’t participate in the 31st import draft. All told, six goaltenders, 18 defencemen and 40 forwards were selected. . . . Of the 64 players taken, 23 were from Czech Republic. . . . Of the WHL’s 22 teams, only the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Winnipeg Ice sat out. . . . The WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers held the first overall selection and took Slovakian F Adam Sýkora, who will turn 18 on Sept. 7. He had 10 goals and seven assists in 46 games with HK Nitra of the Slovakian League last season. He also had two goals and an assist in six games with the Slovakian national team at the IIHF World Championship. Sýkora’s father, Roman, had one assist in eight games with the Tri-City Americans in 1997-98 before going on to play two seasons with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. . . F Nikita Zozulia, 17, was the lone Ukrainian player to be selected, going to the OHL’s Flint Firebirds in the first round. He played last season with the U-16 Anaheim Jr. Ice Dogs. . . . BTW, 47 of the CHL’s 60 teams didn’t take part in the draft’s second round. Of the WHL teams, only the Vancouver Giants, Regina Pats, Kamloops Blazers and Everett made second-round selections.
The WHL rights to F Brad Lambert, a high-profile Finnish player who might be a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft, have been traded by the Saskatoon Blades to the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . In return, the Blades received fourth- and sixth-round selections in the WHL’s 2023 draft, a conditional first-round selection in 2023 and a conditional second-rounder in 2024. The 2023 fourth-rounder originated with the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Saskatoon had selected Lambert, whose father, Ross, is a former Blades player, in the 2020 CHL import draft. Brad also is a nephew to former WHL player/coach Lane Lambert, now the head coach of the NHL’s New York Islanders. . . . With the 2022 CHL import draft having been held Friday, days before the NHL draft, the Blades had to make a decision on whether to keep Lambert’s rights or give them up in order to make a selection. With that pick they took Czech D Tomas Ziska, 17, who had one goal and 13 assists in 31 games with a junior team this season. . . . Their other import slot belongs to sophomore Belarusian F Egor Sidorov, 18. . . . NHL Central Scouting had Lambert rated No. 10 among European skaters going into the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . . “This was definitely a unique situation all-around,” said Saskatoon general manager Colin Priestner in a statement, “given he’s a high-profile player with family connections to Saskatoon, but we’ve had his rights for over two full years and we felt the odds of him ever playing junior hockey in Canada were quite low and this way we get three good assets guaranteed up front plus two more really high picks if he ever plays in Seattle. We felt after two years of communications we’d exhausted all our options in recruiting him since he’s been playing pro hockey in Finland since he was 16-years-old.” . . . According to the Blades, they will get the conditional draft picks should Lambert sign with Seattle. . . . That likely will be a tall task for the Thunderbirds, who are looking to fill vacancies created by two of their leading scorers — Henrik Rybinski and Lukas Svejkovsky. Because Lambert, who will turn 19 on Dec. 19, will be drafted off a European roster, he will be eligible to play in the NHL, AHL or with Seattle next season.
Meanwhile, three teams from the WHL’s U.S. Divisions selected players in Friday’s import draft after losing 19-year-olds to pro contracts back home. . . . The Everett Silvertips took Czech F Dominik Rymon, 18, and Swiss G Tim Metzger, 17, after F Niko Huuhtanen signed with Jukurit of Liiga. He put up 37 goals and 40 assists in 65 games as a freshman with Everett last season after being the second-overall selection in the 2021 import draft. . . . The Silvertips still have Czech F Michal Gut on their roster, but, as a 20-year-old, he would be a two-spotter should he return. Still, he put up 18 goals and 53 assists in 53 games last season. . . .
As mentioned here the other day, Czech F Petr Moravec has left the Tri-City Americans to sign a junior contract at home with Mountfield. He had 16 goals and 19 assists in 68 games as a freshman in Tri-City last season. . . . The Americans had the fourth-overall pick and took Czech F Adam Mechura, 19. . . . Czech G Tomas Suchanek, who is heading into his second season, is the Americans’ other import. . . .
The Spokane Chiefs dropped F Yannick Proske and D Timafey Kovgoreniya prior to the draft, while retaining the rights to Czech D David Jiricek, who is the fourth-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting going into the NHL draft that is scheduled for July 7 and 8. The Chiefs selected Jiricek, now 18, in the 2020 import draft, but he has stayed at home to play for HC Plzen and the Czechia national team. . . . Proske, 19, had 12 goals and 18 assists in 58 games with the Chiefs last season and is returning to the German DEL’s Iserlohn Roosters, who chose not let him return to Spokane. . . . On Friday, the Chiefs took Italian F Tommaso De Luca, who will turn 18 on Dec. 19, then passed in the second round.
A former WHLer who knows his way around the movie/television scene and who once owned a chunk of an NHL team checks in. . . . What? You don’t know the name? You never SAW him play? Google is your friend. . . .
It’s officially the first day of Summer!! Also, to my friends and relatives up north, Happy Canada day… pic.twitter.com/19TWiUDMKV
Headline at The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton): Anti-vaxxer demands you produce a single study showing mRNA vaccines are safe — no not that one.
THE COACHING GAME: The SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks have signed Levi Stuart as an assistant coach. Stuart, 26, spent the previous three seasons with his hometown team — the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials. In Nipawin, he’ll work alongside general manager and head coach Tad Kozun, who signed a two-year deal on March 29. Before joining Merritt, Stuart worked with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants as a video coach. . . .
The junior B Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Connor McLuckie as an assistant coach. From Cranbrook, he played in the KIJHL with the Fernie Ghostriders and Golden Rockets in 2011-12, then had his playing career ended by injuries in 2012. He spent the past three seasons on the coaching staff of the East Kootenay Tier 1 Avalanche, last season as head coach. . . .
The QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs have signed head coach Maxime Desruisseaux to a contract extension, the length of which wasn’t revealed. Desruisseaux is preparing for his second season as the club’s head coach. . . .
Jeremy Colliton is the new head coach of the Abbotsford Canucks, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. He takes over from Trent Cull, who now is an assistant coach with the parent club. . . . Colliton spent most of the past four seasons as the head coach of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. He was fired last season. . . . Colliton, 37, played four seasons (2001-05) with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
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 3. . . .
The mid-1970s belonged to the Ernie McLean-coached New Westminster Bruins. They were the Western Canada Hockey League’s most-dominant team.
If you didn’t believe that, well, they would convince you of it. And they’d do that any way they felt like it.
The Bruins ran their string of WCHL titles to four, and won the Memorial Cup the last two seasons, in 1976-77 and 1977-78. But by the time the 1980-81 season ended, the bloom was off the rose in New Westminster. Little did anyone know that it never would return.
Prior to the start of the 1976-77 season, the WCHL instituted a rule calling for an automatic game misconduct to any player who initiated a fight. Ironically, the first player stung was Brandon Wheat Kings starry centre Bill Derlago. He got the heave-ho after starting a scrap with Brian Schnitzler of the Saskatoon Blades in a season-opening 3-0 Brandon victory.
Two coaches felt WCHL president Ed Chynoweth’s wrath on Nov. 2. Ivan Prediger of the Kamloops Chiefs was suspended for 20 games, while Ken Hodge of the Portland Winter Hawks got 10 games. Prediger apparently struck Hodge during an altercation between the benches on Oct. 24.
There was joy in Regina on Jan. 27 when the Pats scored a 3-2 victory over visiting Portland. It ended a 36- game Regina winless streak that covered 96 days. “I hope the players don’t become satisfied with the win,” said Lorne Davis, who had taken over as GM/head coach from Del Wilson and Bob Turner with the Pats at 2-32-5.
A nine-hour meeting in Calgary resulted in a new playoff format. Under the original format, the Flin Flon Bombers, third in the East, were 20 points ahead of Regina and all but had a playoff spot locked up. Suddenly, there was a new format and the Bombers were fighting for a spot. Oh yes, they were also on a 15-game West Coast road trip.
“In this league, you need two pieces of equipment,” said Flin Flon boss Mickey Keating. “You need a face-guard when you play some of the teams on the ice and a back protector for the committee room. I had inklings that there may be changes in the playoffs but I had confidence there were intelligent hockey men in this league. I was shown different.”
In Portland, the Winter Hawks were beginning to carve out a niche, which resulted in this March 1 comment from GM Brian Shaw: “We’re selling the all-American boy image. Our players are all properly dressed in public. They all have respectable hair lengths. We feel image is important. Our players have become our outstanding selling point, and they have actually played much better because of the great acceptance which now is blossoming in Portland.”
In mid-April, Kamloops majority owner Ephram Steinke admitted the franchise would likely move to Spokane over the summer. The reasons? Steinke blamed almost $500,000 in losses over four years, and the city’s refusal to construct a new arena.
On May 12, the Calgary Centennials signed Bob Strumm as general manager. One of Strumm’s first moves was to confirm that a move to Billings was being contemplated.
Strumm, who had been Chynoweth’s executive assistant, was, at 29, the WCHL’s youngest GM. He would be one of the league’s most-prominent figures through the mid-1980s.
The Calgary move became official on May 19. Eleven days later, Kamloops moved to Seattle and became the Breakers under new owner John Hamilton.
On July 19, at the annual meeting in Calgary, the transfer of the Winnipeg Monarchs to Calgary was approved. Del Wilson, president and governor of the Pats, was named chairman of the board, replacing Bill Burton.
When Winnipeg moved to Calgary and became the Wranglers, owner Gerry Brisson named Doug Barkley as GM. The coach? It was Brisson. Would the GM be able to fire the owner/coach.
The 1977-78 regular season hadn’t even started when McLean was in trouble. It stemmed from an exhibition game against the host Victoria Cougars when midway in the second period he ventured into the stands to tangle with a fan who was taunting him. For his troubles, McLean got a gash on his forehead and, later, a $250 fine. This would serve as an omen.
A fierce rivalry was building between Regina and the Brandon Wheat Kings. After one early-season game, Davis had this to say: “If (Dave) Semenko would have been close enough to the box I would have swung at him . . . he came over by our bench trying to intimidate us.” To which Brandon coach Dunc McCallum responded: “How can a 220-pound man be held back by a stick boy?”
A few days later, Semenko joined the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers. A couple of years later, Davis joined the Oilers as a scout.
Derlago, perhaps the best pure offensive talent this league has seen, had a 40-game point streak end on Nov. 9 when he left a game with a thigh injury during his first shift. One month later, he blew out a knee in an exhibition game against the Moscow Selects. Had Derlago not been hurt, who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up? When he was injured, he had 48 goals and 80 points in 26 games. He was on pace for 133 goals, three more than the then-CMJHL record of 130 held by Guy Lafleur.
On Feb. 3, Jack McLeod resigned as coach of the Saskatoon Blades. He stayed on as GM, but put Garry Peters behind the bench. In Calgary, Barkley, the GM, took over as coach from Brisson, the owner.
More bad ink, and lots of it, in early February when McLean was slapped with a 25-game suspension for allegedly hitting an official. He returned for the playoffs.
“Our league has long been accused of protecting either our coaches or, more particularly, owner/coaches, but there is no way one coach or one franchise is bigger than the league,” Chynoweth said. “I can live with the so-called violence on ice, as projected by the media, but when it comes to our officials, qualified or unqualified, I look at things much differently.”
More bad ink in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, it emerged from a round-robin series. This one featured Brandon, Flin Flon and Regina in a double home-and-home series. When it got to the final game, Flin Flon at Regina, the Pats had to beat the Bombers by at least six goals to eliminate Brandon and set up a Regina-Flin Flon division final. Regina won 10-4 and the high-powered Wheat Kings, led by the likes of Derlago, Brian Propp, Laurie Boschman and Ray Allison, were done like so much burnt toast.
“For us to say anything is stupid. You saw what happened,” Flin Flon defenceman Ray Markham said after the game.
Ultimately, Flin Flon, New Westminster and Billings advanced to the WCHL’s round-robin semi-final to eliminate one team and put the other two in the championship final. Out went Flin Flon. New Westminster then swept Billings in the final. It was the Bruins’ fourth straight WCHL title and they would win their second consecutive Memorial Cup.
The Bruins, a power for oh, so long, would rarely be heard from in a positive light again.
On May 22, Flin Flon governor Gord Mitchell revealed that the community-owned team would cease operations. “I hate to see it go,” Mitchell said. “It’s certainly not the fault of the league. The league’s not kicking us out. But there comes a time when something like this seems to be the most reasonable thing to do. We’re a small centre and it got to the point where the league had outgrown us.”
A week later, Chynoweth, who had threatened to resign, announced he would remain as president, thanks to a promise from the governors that an executive assistant would be provided to help with such things as discipline. Wilson, the part-owner of the Pats, filled the bill as vice-president and referee-in-chief. Shaw replaced Wilson as chairman of the board.
On June 1, Gregg Pilling was named GM/coach in Regina, replacing Davis who, in a surprise move, was fired. Davis professed sadness, saying he had worked awfully hard and that all of that work would bear fruit in two years. Which is exactly what happened — two years later the Pats were in the Memorial Cup. But Pilling was gone by that point.
It was during the summer of 1978 when Chynoweth began talking of an education program. On July 4, he announced a program whereby teams would provide a year’s tuition and books at a recognized post-secondary institution for every season a player was in the league.
On Aug. 16, Chynoweth announced an Edmonton group headed by Bill Hunter had purchased the Flin Flon franchise from the league. Hunter would be president and governor, Vic Mah would be first vice-president.
The 1978-79 season began with news of a name change and ended with a new champion for the first time since the spring of ’74.
With three of 12 teams situated in the U.S., the WCHL was no more. Now it was the Western Hockey League.
The goofiness started on Oct. 22 when Pilling went into the penalty box at the start of the third period of a game in Calgary. He said he would serve a bench minor handed him for delay of game at the end of the second period in what would be an 8-1 loss. Pilling also alternated goaltenders Jeff Lastiwka and Gregg Dumba every shift change after a brawl at 2:52 of the second. Changing goalies ended 30 seconds into the third period when, with the faceoff outside Regina’s blueline, Dumba lined up behind his net. He was given a gross misconduct.
Chynoweth, who fined Pilling $1,000, said: “I thought it was a circus. I wouldn’t blame anybody if they didn’t go back.”
This was to be the season of McCallum’s Wheat Kings. That much was evident when Brandon ran its two-season unbeaten streak to a WHL-record 49 games and its single-season streak to 29 games. Brandon finally lost, going down 9-4 in Edmonton on Dec. 13 with the Oil Kings scoring all nine goals with the man advantage.
There was more news from Brandon on Jan. 11 when GM Jack Brockest, one of the WHL’s most likeable people, bought the team.
If any team could match Brandon it was Portland. The Winter Hawks had a 19-game unbeaten streak ended when visiting Brandon won 7-4 to go to 42-3-7.
In mid-March, rumours had the Edmonton franchise, which was averaging about 500 fans a game, moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Red Deer.
Things got ugly on March 22 in New Westminster when an incident involving the Bruins and Portland resulted in McLean’s being suspended indefinitely and seven of his players being charged by police. A game-ending brawl broke out, but this one was different because, while the Bruins left their bench, Hodge managed to keep his players under control.
On March 27, Wilson said McLean would not be allowed to coach during the playoffs, nor would he be allowed to communicate with the bench from the press box as he had done during previous suspensions.
McLean apologized for the brawl at a Vancouver press conference: “I have to take the full load, the full responsibility for what happened . . . when I look at it, maybe the game has gone by me. Maybe my coaching style isn’t what’s needed anymore. I’m an old horse that’s been at it for 25 years and it’s tough to change your thinking. The game is changing — maybe I haven’t changed with it.”
On April 4, GM Bill Shinske and McLean announced the Bruins were for sale, for $350,000.
The Winter Hawks got a small measure of revenge, beating the visiting Bruins 5-3 on April 8 to eliminate them from post-season play.
But this sad episode would drag on through the summer.
Meanwhile, Brandon was finishing with a 58-5-9 record, setting or tying 19 records.
The Oil Kings were sold on April 10, with ownership handed over to a Portland group headed by Bob Cooper and Tom Gauthier, who said they would move the franchise to Great Falls. “I guess sports is not my bowl of rice,” said Mah, an Edmonton restauranteur. It was Mah’s second go-round as an owner in Edmonton, and he wouldn’t give up. He would try and try again and again to get another franchise for the Alberta capital.
On April 20, charges of common assault were filed against seven Bruins — J.P. Kelly, Terry Kirkham, Bruce Howes, Rick Amann, Boris Fistric, Rob Roflik and Bill Hobbins. In August, the seven pleaded guilty. Judge James Shaw — no relation to the Portland general manager — granted conditional discharges to all seven, then banned them from league games at any level until Dec. 1. McLean said Shaw was “trying to be the judge who is going to clean up hockey. I’m worried about the affect on the game because the judge’s ruling makes a hip-check a criminal offence.”
Portland and Brandon ended up in the final, with Brandon winning in six games.
And, on May 28, Chynoweth resigned, effective June 30. This time he would leave, becoming part-owner of the Wranglers. “It’s more than 25 per cent and less than 50,” said majority-owner Jim Morley.
In late May, Pat Ginnell, who had been with the Lethbridge Broncos, moved north to take over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Mike Sauter would replace him in Lethbridge. Dave King left as coach in Billings to become head coach at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Pats were sold on June 8, with Wilson, Bill Patton, Gord Wicijowski, D.K. MacPherson, Wilf Degelman and Bob Babchuk selling to the Pinders — father Dick and sons Herb, Gerry and Tom. The price was believed to be near $300,000. Strumm was named GM, governor and part-owner.
Strumm later signed Bryan Murray as head coach and one of the great turnarounds in WHL history was under way.
But before that got started, Dave Descent was chosen to run the WHL. In his third season with the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association at the time, Descent had lots of hockey experience at various levels in the OHA. “This job is an opportunity to get back into hockey, which is my chosen sport, and advance my sporting career,” he said.
Regina, which finished 18-47-7 (last in the East, second-worst in the league) in 1978-79, would go 47-24-1 in 1979-80 to win the division.
It was obvious early that the Bruins were going to pay a steep price for the brawl against Portland. They got their first point, after 13 losses, with a 5-5 tie in Great Falls on Oct. 31.
And on Nov. 16 McLean was at it again. And again it involved Portland.
McLean got tangled up with a fan at a game in Portland and was charged with fourth-degree assault. In one of the most ironical situations in WHL history, McLean was in jail until Brian Shaw posted his bail of $525. Charges were later reduced to harassment and it was all cleared up when a civil compromise was signed, ending the criminal case.
In mid-December, Descent’s title was changed from executive director to president. And concern was being shown about Great Falls, which was 2-22-1 and hurtin’ at the gate. The Americans folded on Dec. 13.
On March 2, McLean threw a 30-gallon garbage can onto the ice to protest the work of referee Ken Wheler during a game against visiting Portland.
The next day, Descent announced his resignation. Said Descent: “Speaking honestly, I’ve enjoyed my stay and feel it was a positive experience. But for personal reasons I’ve decided to take a different career path which is something I’m not at liberty to discuss now.”
Shaw said a five-man board would run the league, and that McLean would be suspended for three games for throwing the can. Oh yes, McLean was later named acting chairman of the management committee.
On March 24, McLean said he was leaving the Bruins. “I’ve made up my mind,” he said. “I’ve worn out my welcome. I will not be in New Westminster next year. We built a dynasty here but it’s time to move on.” All this after the Bruins set a WHL record with 61 losses. It was the first time in 18 seasons that McLean had missed playoffs.
On April 17, Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania bought out McLean and Shinske for slightly more than $300,000.
A week later, the WHL announced that Winnipeg would have an expansion team for 1980-81 and that the owners were former Pats star Fran Huck, his law partner Gerald Gunn and Winnipeg businessmen Harry Buekert, Arnold DeFehr and Marsdon Fenwick. Buekert would be GM, with Huck as coach.
On April 27, Regina beat visiting Victoria, 5-4, to win the WHL final, 4-1. The 1980 Memorial Cup, which would be won by the Cornwall Royals, opened in Brandon and closed in Regina.
During the Memorial Cup it became apparent the major juniors were terribly concerned with NHL’s practice of drafting 18-year-olds.
Chynoweth said: “I understand the legal problems the NHL has, although I don’t sympathize with it . . . at this rate, the pros will be scouting midgets soon.”
McLeod remembered the 1979 draft: “Back in June one NHL general manager said there was nothing to worry about, that only seven or eight under-ages would be taken. When they took 58, we were a little disturbed. Once they got into it, they just kept going.”
Junior teams were to be paid $50,000 to $65,000 for under-age players who stuck in the NHL.
Some NHL people said they weren’t in favour of the 18-year-old draft, either.
“The general managers unanimously fought to the 11th hour to avoid drafting under-ages,” said Washington GM Max McNab. “We were going to get caught in a lawsuit. But the NHL is like the government in the eyes of the public here. We’re going to get shot at in any decision.”
On May 15, the WHL announced that the dormant Great Falls franchise would relocate to Spokane with Cooper remaining as majority owner.
On June 26, Skalbania, already the owner of New Westminster and the NHL’s Calgary Flames, bought 50 per cent of the Wranglers. Skalbania explained: “It’s a sympathetic thing. I said when we bought the Flames that we’d support junior hockey in Calgary and I can’t think of a way we’d be supporting it any more than owning the team. I just hope we don’t lose that much money with them.”
Pat Shimbashi, a minority owner in Lethbridge, bought the other 50 per cent of the Wranglers from Jim Morley and Chynoweth, which meant that the latter would return as WHL president.
On June 27, Skalbania completed his purchase of the Bruins, buying 100 per cent for $325,000. McLean stayed as GM, while Skalbania’s 20-year-old daughter, Rozanda, was named president.
McLean resigned a couple of weeks later and Tracy Pratt was named GM. “I’d like to forget about the big bad Bruins of the past,” Pratt said, “and I’d like to think of them as the scrappy Bruins in the future. My concern is putting families back in the building. There was a shade too much violence in past years and many people became very bitter about what happened at Queen’s Park Arena.”
The league lost its referee-in-chief on Aug. 8 when Wilson announced he would scout for the Montreal Canadiens, a team with which he had long been associated.
The 1980-81 season opened quietly enough, but the silence was shattered on Dec. 1 with a shakeup in Saskatoon. McLeod and coach Lorne Frey ended their association with the Blades. Majority owner Nate Brodsky bought McLeod’s share (20 per cent) and named Daryl Lubiniecki GM and coach.
Lubiniecki began shaking things up when, on Jan. 15, he traded one player — centre Rocky Trottier — to Billings for six players — Pat Rabbitt, Dave Brown, Brad Duggan, Dave Chartier, Lyndon Byers and Al Acton.
Fighting was still a concern and on Dec. 17 Chynoweth announced that teams would be fined $2,500 if their players fought before games or between periods. Players who started the fights or were main combatants would get a minimum of five games.
A black cloud continued to follow the Bruins. A labour dispute forced them to play their last 29 games on the road. Their last 13 home games were played in such places as Bellingham, Wash., Kamloops, Trail, Duncan, B.C., and Coleman, Alta. The Bruins set a WHL record by losing 25 in a row and had to give season-ticket holders a refund for the 13 home games that were moved.
There were rumblings out of Swift Current that the locals were interested in a WHL franchise. John Rittinger, president of the SJHL team there, was trying to raise money for the venture. “I can’t give you a figure at this time,” he said on April 1, “but, personally, I feel there has been insufficient support.”
The juniors were beginning to realize they were going to have to live with the 18-year-old draft. Said Chynoweth: “The under-age situation is a problem but also a fact of life. The law of the land says at 18 you can fight for your country, drink and get married. Consequently, they’re also eligible to be drafted and play for NHL teams.”
The WHL had a new referee-in-chief — Richard Doerksen — and he was in the news in the playoffs after Strumm grabbed him in the press box during a game. Strumm was slapped with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.
Victoria, under coach Jack Shupe, would win the WHL championship in 1980-81. Trailing Calgary 3-1, the Cougars bounced back and wrapped it up on May 1, beating the visiting Wranglers, 4-2, in Game 7.
Singing a song that would become popular in NHL circles in years to come, Calgary coach Doug Sauter explained: “(Goaltender Grant) Fuhr was the difference.”