The WHL, Part 5: There was tragedy, lots of movement and marshmallow punches . . .

Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years.  The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . 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, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .

——

The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.

There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.

There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.

But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.

DougSauter

The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.

The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.

The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.

This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”

BryanMaxwell

Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.

Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.

In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.

There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.

bob cornell brandon wheat kings mvc
BOB CORNELL (Photo: Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame)

In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.

Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.

The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.

“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”

The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.

Broncos
When the Swift Current Broncos’ bus crashed on Dec. 30, 1986, the hockey world lost Chris Mantyka (left), Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger and Brent Ruff. (Photo: Swift Current Broncos)

Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.

EdChynoweth3
ED CHYNOWETH

“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”

John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”

There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”

Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”

Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.

“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”

As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.

And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.

Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.

On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.

On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.

BradHornung
BRAD HORNUNG (Photo: University of Regina)

Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.

Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”

Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.

As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.

Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.

April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.

And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.

The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.

EdStaniowski

John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with

Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.

And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.

The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.

“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.

Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.

“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”

That is exactly what happened.

There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.

On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.

Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”

Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.

On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”

Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.

GerryJames

With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.

On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”

One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.

On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.

For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.

Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.

JoeCelentano
JOE CELENTANO

The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.

On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.

On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.

The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.

The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.

On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.

The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.

Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.

“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”

In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.

Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”

On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”

Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.

TimSpeltz
TIM SPELTZ

In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.

Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.

The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.

Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.

A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.

Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.

On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.

Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.

It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.

“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”

On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.

Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”

Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”

There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.

The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.

On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.

Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.

There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.

The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.

Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.

 “This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”

TimTisdale

Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”

On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.

Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.

On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.

At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.

The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.

Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.

The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.

On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.

“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”

Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.

A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.

At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.

Kelly-McCrimmon
KELLY McCRIMMON (Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings)

On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.

There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.

On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”

The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.

Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”

Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.

On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.

Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.

Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.

On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.

The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”

JackShupe

The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.

On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.

There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”

DennisBeyak
DENNIS BEYAK

Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.

Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.

There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.

Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”

On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”

Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.

On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.

Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”

James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.

GerryJohansson
GERRY JOHANSSON

There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.

Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.

Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”

Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.

Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”

The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.

A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.

On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.

On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.

The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.

LorneFrey
LORNE FREY

On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.

Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.

One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.

—30—

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.

Remembering my days at The Trib . . . Like the time I was given Earl Lunsford’s suite . . .

Trib1

By Aug. 27, 1980, I had been back at the Brandon Sun for almost two years. So, no I wasn’t at The Trib when Southam folded it on the same day that Thompson buried the Ottawa Journal.

That left Thompson with a monopoly in Winnipeg with the Free Press, while Southam now owned Ottawa with the Citizen. But none of this was underhanded or in violation of any laws. Wink! Wink!!

Even though I had left Winnipeg, that day still stung. You bet it did. And it still does.

I had started what turned into an almost-43-year newspaper career at The Sun in the summer of 1971, catching on as the sports department was expanded from two writers (Bill Davidson and Bruce Penton) to three. In time, after I had done what seemed like a million rewrites and answered a gazillion phone calls and done a whole lot of learning, I got to cover the Manitoba Senior Baseball League. If this was heaven, I loved it.

Two years later, Matty came calling. Jack Matheson, the legendary sports editor at the Winnipeg Tribune, wanted me. If memory serves, he offered me $125 a week, up from the $75 I was making at The Sun.

Truth be told, I would have gone for a whole lot less.

A few years earlier, while growing up in Lynn Lake, Man., I had delivered The Trib. The papers came in via rail three times a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I would load my wagon at the post office and head out in the dark of night. During the summer, on occasion, I would visit a garden, grab a few carrots and find a street light. There I would sit on the paper and read The Trib’s sports section.

One summer, maybe even two of them, Uncle Vince Leah, who was almost as much a legend as was Matty, brought a bunch of Winnipeg boys to Lynn Lake. They were there to fish and play a little baseball and soccer. Uncle Vince always wrote a column or two while there, and I would hop on my bike and take his copy to the CN station so that it could be sent via telegraph to Winnipeg.

Now here I was, all those years later, heading to the Manitoba capital to work for Matty and be in the same office as Uncle Vince.

SteelersHockyGods
The 1973-74 Selkirk Steelers, winners of the Centennial Cup.

I spent a lot of time covering the MJHL, which, in those days, meant spending springs with George Dorman’s Selkirk Steelers, who always seemed to meet up with Terry Simpson’s Prince Albert Raiders along the playoff trail.

It was in my first year at The Trib that I saw one of the two best hockey games of my writing career.

The Steelers won the 1974 Centennial Cup by beating the Smiths Falls Bears, 1-0 in OT, on a goal by Gord Kaluzniak in Nepean, Ont. (There wasn’t ice in the Smiths Falls rink, so the best-of-seven series was played in the Nepean Sportsplex.) In those days, under Canadian Amateur Hockey Association rules, teams played a 10-minute OT session before going into sudden-death. Kaluzniak scored with two minutes left in that first OT period and the Steelers were able to hold the lead.

I also learned an important lesson during that series. With the Steelers leading the series, 3-1, I wrote that the Bears were done like dinner. LOL! Lesson learned.

(BTW, the other best game that I witnessed was the final of the 1979 Memorial Cup with the Brandon Wheat Kings losing 2-1 in OT to the Peterborough Petes in Verdun, Que.)

Back then, The Trib didn’t have copy editors who laid out the sports pages. Rather, the writers shared the layout duties; if you weren’t writing, chances are Trib2you were laying out pages. It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t want to spend summers in the office, so I decided to turn motorsports into a beat, even though I wouldn’t know how to put air in a tire. So I ended up spending time at Bison Dragways, an NHRA-sanctioned strip located 29 miles east of Winnipeg, and Winnipeg Speedway, where the stock cars ran on a short track south of the city. I point this out because it’s how I picked up the nickname Greaser, which is what Matty started calling me after my first motorsport-related byline.

In time, I ended up covering the Blue Bombers, spending time at training camp at St. John’s-Ravenscourt and travelling to the odd regular-season game whenever Matty wanted to stay home.

That’s how I got to be in Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium on June 22, 1978, when a limousine pulled onto the field and Tom Jones — yes, that Tom Jones — climbed out to handle the ceremonial opening kickoff before a CFL exhibition game.

“The ball,” I wrote, “went off the side of his shoe and travelled about 12 yards.”

A week later I was in Calgary with the Blue Bombers when I ended up the beneficiary of something of a mistake by the front desk at the hotel in which we would stay. I picked up the key to my room and headed upstairs, with Bob Irving, (Cactus) Jack Wells and Ken Ploen, all of radio station CJOB, who were on the same floor. I opened the door to my room, took a look and suggested that the three might want to take a look. I had been given the suite that was to have gone to general manager Earl Lunsford. Yes, it was well-stocked with booze and snacks.

Before I could close the door, the wrapping was removed from sandwiches and drinks were poured. I spent the next day and game night avoiding Lunsford.

Upon returning to Winnipeg, I filed my expenses and then made sure to steer clear of Matty. There was a news conference prior to the next Bombers’ home game, which I was to cover. I knew that Matty would be there, meaning there no longer would be a way to avoid him.

And here he came, strolling into the room with a glint in his eyes.

“Hey, Okie,” he said in Lunsford’s direction, “do my guys travel first class, or what?”

I never heard another word, nor did I ever again end up in Lunsford’s suite.

Later that year, with The Sun looking for someone to cover the 1978-79 Wheat Kings, perhaps the best team in WHL history, I left The Trib and returned to Brandon.

Patti Dawn Swansson was one of the other sports writers at The Trib when I was there, and wrote a wonderful piece last week on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the newspaper’s closing.

If you wonder what it was like working there, give this a read right here. Yes, I got a little misty-eyed while reading it. But, damn, those were great times!

The stories about sitting around late at night and arguing about the chances of hitting a home run off Nolan Ryan or surviving a jump from a fifth-floor window are accurate. Those are the conversations that were important in the mid-’70s.

1985 Memorial Cup — Simpson: ‘We played the best at the most important times all season long. I guess that makes us the best.’

The four-team Memorial Cup tournament is to open in Halifax on Friday with the host Mooseheads meeting the WHL-champion Prince Albert Raiders. The Raiders are in the tournament for the first time since 1985. . . . With that in mind, here’s a look back at that 1985 tournament when the Raiders proved that they were the best. . . . Enjoy!


1985 MEMORIAL CUP

Prince Albert Raiders, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Verdun Junior Canadiens and Shawinigan Cataractes

at Shawiningan (Municipal Auditorium) and Drummondville (Marcel Dionne Arena)

   The Prince Albert Raiders, under general manager and head coach Terry Simpson, were a Canadian junior A hockey dynasty.

   When the early 1980s arrived they really didn’t have any more junior A worlds left to conquer. And so it was that the Raiders applied and were granted entrance into the PrinceAlbertWestern Hockey League.

   Who could have guessed that three seasons into their major junior existence the Raiders would be the WHL champions and into their first Memorial Cup tournament?

   But that is exactly what happened.

   It cost the Raiders $175,000 to get into the WHL. They paid $100,000 for the franchise and $75,000 for what remained of a players’ list that had belonged to the defunct Spokane Flyers.

   When the Flyers folded in the middle of the 1981-82 seasons, the remaining teams held a dispersal draft on Dec. 3, 1981, but were only allowed to select players from Spokane’s active roster.

   The Raiders then bought the list and got more than their money’s worth because they picked up three future stars — centre Dan Hodgson, right-winger Dave Pasin and defenceman Emanuel Viveiros.

   And then, on Dec. 3, 1984, the Raiders moved into first place in the East Division for the first time. It was now apparent that this had all the makings of a special season in Prince Albert.

   The Raiders had gone 16-55-1 as they finished last in an eight-team East Division in their first WHL season, 1982-83. The following season, they were 41-29-2 and fifth.

   In 1984-85, they went 58-11-3 as they put together the WHL’s best regular-season record. Their 119 points was the third-highest in WHL history; the 58 victories was No. 2 on the all-time list.

   The Raiders then tore through the playoff season.

   “The Calgary series was our easiest series and that’s a bit surprising,” Simpson said after the Raiders lost just one of 13 playoff games. “We expected they would be tougher. But the other two series were tougher than the final outcome would indicate.”

   Prince Albert laid waste to the Calgary Wranglers in four games, lost one game to Medicine Hat before ousting the Tigers in five games, and then swept the defending-champion Kamloops Blazers.

   “Winning the world championship was a thrill, but winning the WHL title is more satisfying,” said Simpson, who had coached Canada to a world junior gold medal earlier in the year.

   And Simpson felt his club was ready for the Memorial Cup.

   “I know we didn’t get into a long series or overtime games or anything like that,” he said, “but there was always pressure. I suppose you can say that if we would have had tougher series or longer series, then we might be better prepared for the Memorial Cup. That could be an arguable point, but I think we’re going to be OK.”

   Hodgson was the team leader offensively. He led the league with 112 regular-season assists and was second in the points race, his 182 points trailing only the 197 put up by Cliff Ronning of the New Westminster Bruins.

   Hodgson’s linemates, Pasin and Tony Grenier, made the most of their centre’s playmaking abilities. Pasin sniped 64 times and totalled 116 points; Grenier had 120 points, including 62 goals.

  Right-winger Ken Morrison was the team’s other big-time sniper. He had 108 points, 51 of them goals.

   Forwards Dale McFee and Steve Gotaas could kill penalties with the best of them.

   Hodgson kept it going in the playoffs, too, as he led the league in assists (26) and points (36) in only 13 games.

   Pasin and Grenier had 21 points each, with defenceman Dave Goertz totalling 18, including 14 assists.

   Aside from Viveiros and Goertz, the defence also featured Dave Manson, Neil Davey, Doug Hobson and Curtis Hunt.

   And the amicable Ken Baumgartner, who was listed as a defenceman but would play anywhere, kept the opposition honest.

   Roydon Gunn (3.42 GAA in 36 games) and Ward Komonosky (3.52 in 38 games) shared the goaltending. But Komonosky got the bulk of the playing time in the postseason, playing in 12 of 13 playoff games and going the distance in all five Memorial Cup games. 

   “Our club has matured a lot,” offered Simpson. “Some of the younger guys have come along to the point where they are contributors on a regular basis. We’re getting solid leadership from the older guys and our goaltending has been good.

   “Hopefully, we’ve come far enough along to give us a legitimate shot at the Memorial Cup.”

   For the second year in a row, there was a high-scoring Lemieux in the tournament, too.

   It wasn’t Mario, though. This time it was Claude, a right-winger with the QMJHL-champion Verdun Junior Canadiens, who also featured 16-year-old Jimmy Carson.

   The Junior Canadiens were coached by Jean Begin, who had made it to the Memorial Cup tournament the previous season as head coach of the Laval Voisins and Mario Lemieux.

   Claude Lemieux, 19 and not related to Mario, didn’t quite crack the top 10 but he was Verdun’s leading regular-season scorer with 124 points, including 58 goals. He missed 16 games as a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning world junior team earlier in the season. Ironically, that team was coached by Simpson.

   In the postseason, Lemieux had 40 points, including 23 goals, in only 14 games. He also carried with him the reputation as a volatile performer.

   “I have to have the players’ respect but I know that in order to get it they have to respect me,” he said of being his team’s captain. “They won’t if I’m always yelling at them.

   “The thing is that I’m never satisfied. If I get a goal, I want two. If I get two, I want three.”

   After being named team captain, Lemieux began to back off a bit in an attempt to avoid confrontational situations.

   “Sometimes,” he said, “it was hard to back away, but what made it easier to take was that in every playoff game I scored at least a goal.”

   Lemieux got lots of help up front from Carson, who totalled 116 points as a 16-year-old rookie. And utility forward Carl Vermette had come to the fore in the playoffs with 11 goals.

   In goal, Verdun relied on Yves Lavoie, a 19-year-old product of the Quebec college ranks. In the playoffs, he put together a 12-2 record with a 2.32 GAA.

   The leaders on defence were Jerome Carrier, who had been named to the Memorial Cup all-star team with Verdun in 1983; Ron Annear, a Prince Edward Island native and a Montreal Canadiens draft pick who had spent the previous season playing at a university in San Diego; and, Gerry Peach, whom general manager Eric Taylor said was picked up from the Toronto Marlboros “because they didn’t want him.”

   Verdun had gone 36-30-2 in the regular season, winning the Robert Lebel Division but having a poorer record than the top three teams in the Frank Dilio Division.

   The Junior Canadiens took out the Hull Olympiques in five games in the first round, then eliminated the Shawinigan Cataractes, at 48-19-1 the regular season’s best team, in five games in one semifinal series, outscoring them 28-10 in the process.

   And, in the final, Verdun swept the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, who at 41-23-4 had been No. 2 in the regular season. The Junior Canadiens scored 29 goals and surrendered only 11 in the championship final.

   The Cataractes, however, were in the Memorial Cup tournament as the host team.

   Marc Damphousse was the big gun up front. His 160 points left him three points shy of scoring champion Guy Rouleau of the Longueuil Chevaliers.

   But observers felt the key to Shawinigan was left-winger Sergio Momesso. A 6-foot-3, 185-pounder, he finished fourth in the scoring race with 143 points, including 58 goals.

   “He’s a good man in the corners as well as being a good scorer,” offered head coach Ron Lapointe.

   The defence was anchored by Yves Beaudoin, who also was the quarterback on the power play.

   And in goal there was the starry Robert Desjardins, who was all of 5-foot-5 and 130 pounds.

   The Cataractes hadn’t played in 20 days when the tournament started.

   “We practised 13 of the 20 days and I find that our preparations have been very good,” Lapointe said. “Also it gave some players with minor ailments an opportunity to recover — and I have worked to make sure they are prepared mentally for the tournament.”

   With the time off, Lapointe had also been able to scout the fourth team in the tournament — the OHL-champion Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

   The Greyhounds had been on a mission since Aug. 31.

   “As I looked up to the rafters (in the Soo’s Memorial Gardens),” said Terry Crisp, the team’s head coach since 1979, “I saw a 1981 Leyden Division banner, a 1983 Emms Division banner and I’m thinking the only one missing is a 1985 OHL championship banner.”

   The Greyhounds, with Crisp and general manager Sam McMaster pulling the strings, filled the void with the first championship in their 13-year major junior history.

   They did it with a hard-fought 9-5 victory over the Peterborough Petes in the OHL’s nine-point final.

   “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and these kids have had to carry that pressure from Day 1,” explained Crisp.

   The Greyhounds, under Crisp, had been in five straight divisional finals and in the league championship series in three of the last five seasons.

   “We didn’t say that we might be there, or that we might be contenders,” Crisp said. “We said we were going after it. No other team was talking openly about a Memorial Cup. No other team put pressure on themselves like our team.”

   During the season, the Greyhounds set OHL records with 54 victories, 11 losses and 109 points in a 66-game schedule. They also put together a CHL record 33 straight home victories.

   In the playoffs, they lost only twice in 16 games; ironically, both losses occurred at home.

   Centre Wayne Groulx was second in the OHL’s scoring race with 144 points, including 59 goals. Right-winger Graeme Bonar led the team in goals, with 66.

The left-winger on their line was Bob Probert, who came over from the Hamilton Steelhawks in November and had 72 points in 44 games.

   Left-winger Derek King had 35 goals and was named the OHL’s rookie of the year.

   Just before the league’s trade deadline, McMaster picked up right-winger Wayne Presley from the Kitchener Rangers. The previous season, Presley had 63 goals in helping the Rangers to the Memorial Cup final.

   On defence, Jeff Beukeboom was a first-team all-star, while team captain Chris Felix led all OHL defencemen in points, with 101. 

   The goaltending was left in the hands of Scott Mosey and Marty Abrams. Together, they provided the Soo with the OHL’s best goaltending. Mosey had been acquired from the Guelph Platers, with Abrams coming over from the Toronto Marlboros.

   The Greyhounds opened the 67th chase for the Memorial Cup with a 4-3 victory over the Cataractes before 3,226 fans at Shawinigan on May 11.

   The Cataractes led this one 3-0 in the first period on goals by Mario Belanger, Damphousse and Dave Kasper.

   Steve Hollett, with his first of two goals, got the Greyhounds on the scoreboard at 1:52 of the first period. Bonar, at 16:03 of the second, and Chris Brant, 2:12 into the third, tied the game. Hollett then won it on a power play.

   The Cataractes bounced back the next day to beat Prince Albert 6-2 in front of 2,694 fans in Shawinigan.

   “I thought the difference tonight was that we played hockey for 60 minutes,” Lapointe said. “I thought our layoff after the playoffs would really affect us today, but we went with four lines and it seemed to give everybody a breather.”

   Left-winger Alain Bisson had a goal and two assists as the Cataractes posted the first victory for a QMJHL team in a Memorial Cup game since May 8, 1983, when Verdun beat the Lethbridge Broncos 4-3 in Portland. Quebec teams had gone 0-6 since then.

   Denis Paul, Kasper, Patrice Lefebvre, Damphousse and Belanger also scored for Shawinigan.

   Grenier scored both Prince Albert goals.

   The Cataractes also got a big effort from Desjardins, who stopped 22 shots. His teammates played through a scoreless first period, took a 3-1 lead after the second, and scored three more goals in the third.

   That same day in Drummondville, the Soo doubled Verdun 6-3 as King’s second goal, a power-play effort, broke a 3-3 tie at 5:47 of the third period.

Groulx upped it to 5-3 two minutes later and Tyler Larter iced it at 15:25 of the third.

   Brit Peer and Presley also scored for the Greyhounds.

   Francois Olivier, Carrier and Everett Sanipass replied for the Junior Canadiens.

   The Raiders got back on the winning track on May 13 as they got two goals from Goertz and skated to a 5-3 victory over Verdun before 2,613 fans in Drummondville. 

   “We were skating better tonight,” Simpson said, “and our intensity level was up.”

   Goertz added: “We had a team meeting and a good rest after the banquet this afternoon and everybody felt relaxed out there tonight.”

   Hodgson, who was named the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League’s player of the year at that banquet, picked up his third assist of the tournament on a power-play goal by Grenier that opened the scoring 4:34 into the game.

   Lavoie pulled a muscle in his right leg on that play and left the game at 8:18 of the first period, with Troy Crosby, who hadn’t played in the last 23 games, coming on to stop 34 shots.

   Viveiros and left-winger Dean Braham also scored for the Raiders.

   Verdun got two goals from Lemieux and one from Henri Marcoux.

   Komonosky, who had struggled in the opener, rebounded with a 22-save effort against Verdun.

   On May 14 in Drummondville, the Raiders handed the Greyhounds their first loss, winning 8-6 behind Dale McFee’s three goals and five assists from Hodgson. Attendance was 1,827.

   A victory would have given the Soo a spot in the final.

   Hodgson’s performance set an unofficial single-game record for assists and gave him eight helpers in three games.

   “Well, that’s great if I do (hold the record),” Hodgson said, “but I’ve got to start scoring some goals here.”

   Grenier scored twice, giving him a tournament-high five goals, as the Raiders broke open a 2-2 game with five second-period goals. Goertz, Pasin and Brad Bennett added one each for the westerners.

   The Soo scoring came from Presley, Felix, Beukeboom, Hollett, Groulx and Peer.

   “You forget that sometimes even in the smallest of oceans, a breeze can come up and tip your boat in a hurry,” Crisp said. “Tonight, a breeze came up and we only have ourselves to blame.”

   As for Hodgson, he loved the shootout.

   “We feel confident when we get into this type of game because we know we’ve got the guys who can score enough goals to pull us through,” he said.

   Komonosky was solid again, making 37 saves, while the Soo duo of Abrams and Mosey combined for 34 saves.

   The first berth in the final went to Shawinigan, thanks to a 5-1 victory over Verdun on May 15 in Drummondville.

   That eliminated Verdun and set up a semifinal game between the Soo and Prince Albert. Begin, the Junior Canadiens’ coach, now had an 0-6 record in back-to-back Memorial Cups. His Laval club had gone 0-3 a year earlier.

   Lapointe maintained his club’s victory wasn’t based on revenge. Verdun had beaten Shawinigan in five games in one QMJHL semifinal series.

   “There was no revenge factor,” Lapointe said. “The shortest road to the final was what we wanted and our minds were on that.”

   Desjardins, the game’s first star with a 23-save effort, said: “They got us in the semifinals, but we got them when it really counted.”

   Desjardins lost his bid for the first Memorial Cup shutout since 1982 when Frank DeSantis scored with 1:25 left to play.

   Momesso and Belanger had a goal and an assist each, with Lefebvre, Paul and Robert Page adding a goal each for the winners. Damphousse helped out with two assists.

   “We just didn’t seem to have the intensity in the playoffs that we had tonight,” Momesso said. “We had terrific goaltending and our penalty killing was great. And we got a lot of inspiration from the little men (Desjardins and Lefebvre).”

   The Raiders moved into the final by hammering the Greyhounds 8-3 on May 16 in Drummondville. Attendance was 2,758.

   “When you play a team twice in three nights and they not only beat you both times but score 16 goals in the process, you have to give them full credit,” Crisp said.

   The Prince Albert line of Hodgson, Grenier and Pasin totalled 13 points.

Hodgson had a goal and four assists, giving him a record-tying (Jeff Larmer, Kitchener, 1982) 12 assists in the tournament. Pasin had two goals and three assists, and Grenier had two goals for a tournament-leading seven.

   Gotaas, with two, and Braham also scored for the Raiders.

   Probert, Jean-Marc MacKenzie and Felix scored for the Soo.

   “I think our outstanding player tonight was Komonosky,” Simpson said. “I’m really happy for him because some of our critics wonder about our goaltending.”

   Komonosky stopped 37 shots as he enjoyed his best game of the tournament.

   The game was tied 1-1 late in the first period but the Raiders then scored the game’s next seven goals.

   “Our goaltending wasn’t up to snuff through the whole tournament,” said Crisp, who again used both goaltenders. “But what disappoints me most is that we couldn’t regroup and hold the fort — stem the tide — after they got ahead.

   “We just didn’t dig down and hold them until we could get a goal or two back.”

   This would be the first final since the round-robin format was adopted in 1974 in which Ontario wasn’t represented among the final two teams.

   “I would have loved to have gone on to the championship, but we can go home and say we got beat by a damn good hockey team,” Crisp said.

   As for the final, Crisp liked the Raiders.

   “It’s going to take one hell of a club to beat them, I’ll say that much,” he said.

   Hodgson, for one, was ready.

   “Right after that game (the 6-2 opening loss) we wanted to play Shawinigan again,” he said. “Now we’re going to show them on national television how the Prince Albert Raiders play hockey.”

   The Cataractes, the host team for this tournament, were in the final but playing 100 kilometres from home, their own rink having been deemed unfit for a TV game.

   The final was held in Drummondville on May 18, with the Raiders winning 6-1 in front of 3,865 noisy fans.

   Hodgson, who set a tournament record with 13 assists, pointed to a first-period fight as the turning point.

   “Sometimes you’ve just got to go in there and tune some of the boys in,” he said. “Baumgartner did that to their big tough guy and we just picked it up from there. I thought that was a big part of the game.”

   With the Raiders up 2-0, Baumgartner scored a unanimous decision over Steve Masse in a battle of 6-foot-1, 200-pound defencemen.

   It helped too that the Raiders scored just 15 seconds into the game — Braham got the goal — to quiet the crowd.

   Gotaas, with two, Pat Elynuik, Viveiros and Pasin also scored for the Raiders.

Belanger spoiled Komonosky’s bid for a shutout on a power play at 3:05 of the third period.

   “Everyone cuts (Komonosky) down all season and says the Raiders aren’t going to go anywhere because of their goaltending,” Hodgson said, “but the big guy slammed the door and kicked the lights out today.”

   Hodgson didn’t do too bad, either.

   He turned in one of the best performances in tournament history, setting a record for most assists (13) in a series and most assists in one game (5). His 15 points were one short of the record set by Kitchener’s Jeff Larmer in 1982.

   Hodgson was named the tournament’s most valuable player and was selected to the all-star team.

   “To end my junior career like this is such a big thrill,” Hodgson said. “This is probably the best hockey I’ve played all year and it was a good time to play it, I must admit.”

   Also named to the all-star team were Desjardins, Goertz and Beaudoin on defence, and wingers Grenier and Lefebvre.

   Komonosky, although he didn’t get selected to the all-star team, was named the top goaltender. Grenier was selected the most sportsmanlike player.

   “This is gratifying because this is a victory that an entire organization can celebrate,” Simpson said. “We played the best at the most important times all season long.

   “I guess that makes us the best.”

High Noon for Hannoun, Raiders. . . . Mid-season acquisition scores OT winner. . . . Prince Albert rules WHL for first time since 1985


MacBeth

F Riley Holzapfel (Moose Jaw, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, in 53 games, he had 19 goals and a team-leading 34 assists. . . .

F Spencer Edwards (Red Deer, Seattle, Moose Jaw, 2006-11) has signed a  one-year contract extension with Amiens (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, he had nine goals and 17 assists in 44 games. . . .

D Tomáš Slovák (Kelowna, 2001-03) has signed a one-year contract extension with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had four assists in eight games. He started this season with Jegesmedvék Miscolc (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga), putting up one goal and three assists in 39 games. . . .

F Tomáš Hričina (Regina, 2008-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had eight goals and seven assists in 49 games. . . .

F Oliver Jokeľ (Swift Current, 2008-09) has signed a one-year contract extension with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had three goals in 15 games. On loan to Humenné (Slovakia, 1. Liga), he had 12 goals and 14 assists in 31 games. . . .

F Keegan Dansereau (Calgary, Swift Current, 2003-09) has signed a one-year contract with Dunaújváros (Hungary, Erste Liga). This season, with MAC Újbuda Budapest (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga), he had nine goals and 30 assists in 56 games. He was second on the team in assists. . . .

F Zach McPhee (Tri-City, Everett, Kootenay, 2010-14) has signed a one-year contract with Trollhättan (Sweden, Division 2). This season, with U of Regina (USports, Canada West), he had four goals and three assists in 27 games. . . .

F Rihards Bukarts (Brandon, Portland, 2013-16) has signed a one-year contract with Düsseldorf (Germany, DEL). This season, with the Schwenninger Wild Wings (Germany, DEL), he had nine goals and 13 assists in 42 games. . . .

F Mike Aviani (Spokane, 2009-14) has signed a one-year contract with Nice (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, Erste Bank Liga), he had four goals and seven assists in 23 games. He also had three goals and four assists in 15 games with the Herning Blue Fox (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). . . .

F Cain Franson (Vancouver, 2010-14) has signed a one-year contract with Amiens (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with U of Calgary (USports, Canada West), he had six goals and seven assists in 15 games. . . .

D Craig Schira (Regina, Vancouver, 2003-09) has signed a two-year contract extension with Rögle Ängelholm (Sweden, SHL). This season, he was the team captain, and had two goals and 12 assists in 41 games.


ThisThat

It wasn’t the running of the bulls in Prince Albert, but . . .


The Prince Albert Raiders won the Ed Chynoweth Cup on Monday night, beating the PrinceAlbertvisiting Vancouver Giants, 3-2 in OT, in Game 7 of the WHL’s championship series. . . . It’s the second time in league history that the title has been won in an overtime period in Game 7. . . . F Noah Gregor, with two goals in regulation time, and F Dante Hannoun, with the winner in OT, scored for the Raiders. Both players are 20, meaning they are in their final seasons of junior hockey. . . . Both players were acquired from the Victoria Royals. . . . The Raiders acquired Hannoun, along with fourth- and eighth-round selections in the 2019 bantam draft, on Jan. 3, giving up F Kody McDonald, F Carson Miller and a third-round pick in the 2020 draft in the exchange. . . . Gregor, who has signed with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, was acquired on July 25 for “conditional compensation,” whatever that is. . . .

As for the first time that Game 7 was decided in OT, it happened in 2007 and, yes, it involved the Giants. Vancouver had taken a 3-2 lead in the series with the Medicine Hat Tigers as G Tyson Sexsmith put up three shutouts — 1-0, 4-0 and 3-0. . . . The last two games were played in Medicine Hat. The Tigers won Game 6, 4-3, then took Game 7, 3-2, when F Brennan Bosch scored at 7:26 of the second OT period. . . . The Giants were the host team for the 2007 Memorial Cup and — wouldn’t you know it — they beat the Tigers, 3-1, in the final.


The Prince Albert Raiders, who won the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions on CHLMonday night, will open the Memorial Cup on Friday night in Halifax.

The Raiders will meet the host Mooseheads, who lost the QMJHL final in six games to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

The Huskies will play their first Memorial Cup game on Saturday against the OHL-champion Guelph Storm. Guelph took out the Ottawa 67’s in six games in the OHL final.

The Mooseheads and Storm will meet on Sunday, with the Huskies and Raiders playing on Monday.

The Storm and Raiders are scheduled to play on May 21, with the round-robin concluding on May 22 with the Mooseheads meeting the Huskies.

If a tiebreaker is necessary, it will be played on May 23, and the semifinal is scheduled for May 24.

The tournament wraps up with the championship game on May 26.

The WHL has won the Memorial Cup once in the past 10 tournaments. That was in 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings won the championship. Prior to that, the WHL had won five the previous eight tournaments.


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.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The Prince Albert Raiders have won their first WHL championship since 1985 when, in just their third season in the league, they went on to win the Memorial Cup under head coach Terry Simpson. . . . Curtis Hunt, the Raiders’ general manager, was a defenceman on that championship team. . . .

This was the third straight season in which the Ed Chynoweth Cup was won in Saskatchewan. Two seasons ago, the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Regina Pats in six games, winning Game 6 in Regina. Last season, the Swift Current Broncos won it at home, beating the visiting Everett Silvertips in Game 6. . . . This is the second season in a row that the champion of the 22-team WHL is a community-owned team. There are four of those in the WHL, the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Moose Jaw Warriors being the other two. . . .

The captains of the Raiders and Giants both are from Saskatchewan and were teammates with the Victoria Royals. Raiders D Brayden Pachal, 19, is from Estevan. He was a freshman with the Royals in 2015-16, then was dealt to the Raiders the next season. Giants F Jared Dmytriw, 20, is from Craven. He was with the Royals for two full seasons (2014-16) before being dealt to the Red Deer Rebels and then to Vancouver last season. . . .

Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, now has posted 74 WHL playoff victories during his career behind the bench. That is seventh in WHL history, behind Don Hay (108), Ken Hodge (101), Ernie McLean (87), Kelly McCrimmon and Pat Ginnell (80), and Brent Sutter (79). . . . During the regular season, Habscheid became the eighth WHL head coach to get to 500 victories. . . . Habscheid now has won two titles as a head coach; he also won with the 2002-03 Kelowna Rockets. . . .

The Raiders, who were 28-4-2 at home in the regular season, finished the playoffs at 9-3. . . . The Giants, who were 22-9-3 on the road in the regular season, were 7-4 in the playoffs. . . .

Bowen Byram of the Giants became the first defenceman in WHL history to win the playoff scoring race. He finished with 26 points, one more than F Brett Leason of the Raiders. Prince Albert forwards Dante Hannoun and Noah Gregor, who combined on the winning goal in OT of Game 7, each had 24. . . . Hannoun led in goals (14), one more than Gregor, while Byram was tops in assists (18), two more than teammate Davis Koch. . . .

Hannoun had five goals and four assists in the seven-game final. After three games, he had three goals and four assists. So the Giants held him to two goals over the final four games, but he still was able to score the biggest goal of the season. . . .

This was the 12th time that the WHL championship has been decided in Game 7, and the road team has only won one of those games. That was in 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Winterhawks, 4-2, in Portland to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

——

MONDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Dante Hannoun’s OT goal gave the Prince Albert Raiders a 3-2 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants in Game 7 of the WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. . . . The Raiders, PrinceAlbertwho hadn’t lost three straight games all season, had led the series 3-1 before dropping two straight games. . . . Hannoun, a mid-season acquisition from the Victoria Royals, won it with 1:35 left in the first OT period. F Noah Gregor, who had the Raiders’ two goals in regulation, had the puck on the left side and sent a terrific pass to Hannoun, who was open off the right side of the Vancouver net. He didn’t miss the open side. . . . Vancouver F Milos Roman, who had gone 12 games without a goal, opened the scoring at 4:45 of the second period. D Bowen Byram skated down the left side of the offensive zone and hit Roman with a great pass for Roman’s third goal of the playoffs. . . . Gregor (12) pulled the Raiders even at 14:57, beating G David Tendeck through a screen from the slot. . . . Gregor (13) gave the Raiders a 2-1 lead at 4:25 of the third period, scoring from the left side. . . . F Parker Kelly drew an assist on each of Gregor’s goals. Kelly had five two-point games in the final — twice scoring two goals and three times setting up a pair. . . . Roman got the Giants back even at 8:30, scoring on a rebound while on the PP. . . . Raiders F Brett Leason was penalized for delay of game — the dreaded puck-over-glass penalty — at 14:27 of OT, but the Raiders were able to kill it off. That set the stage for Hannoun. . . . The Raiders got 24 saves from G Ian Scott. He led all playoff goaltenders in victories (16), GAA (1.96), save percentage (.925) and shutouts (5). He was named the playoff MVP. . . . G David Tendeck stopped 37 shots for Vancouver. He finished the playoffs at 11-5, 2.38, .918. . . . The Giants were 1-4 on the PP; the Raiders were 0-1. . . . The referees were Chris Crich and Jeff Ingram, with Chad Huseby and Tarrington Wyonzek on the lines.


Tweetoftheday