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MEMORIAL CUP

MEMORIES

A salute to the championship Blazers


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MEMORIAL MEMORIAL CUP ANNIVERSARY CUP MEMORIES

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START YOUR PARTY WITH SPIKE, BLAZERS

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elcome to the party. The Kamloops Blazers are celebrating their championship history, Memorial Cups and WHL titles, and KTW is marking the anniversary shindig with this special insert. Spike is directing traffic on this page. Greg (Spike) Wallace, who joined the Blazers’ organization full-time in 1984 and hung around until 2012, was asked for a few memories and anecdotes. Spike — the longtime trainer who moved into a community relations role later in his tenure on Mark Recchi Way — came through. The 1995 Memorial Cup championship, secured at Riverside Coliseum with an 8-2 thumping of the Detroit Junior Red Wings, brought memories of 16-year-old rookie goaltender Randy Petruk, who stole the crease and backstopped the hometown Blazers to victory. “I don’t know if you could write the script any better. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, perfect scenario for me, personally,” said Petruk, now 41 and working in sales in Ohio. “Rod Branch carried us for most of the year and did a great job. I was fortunate to get the ball and ran with it.” What about 1994 in Laval, Spike? “It was a hostile barn,” Wallace said of the Laval Titan rink, known as The House of Pain. “And, oh God — everybody smoked. You couldn’t see across the ice. “Talk to Strudwick. Ask him about the West final, too. Portland had eight 40-goal scorers. Passy [Steve Passmore] stood on his ear.” Jason Strudwick enjoyed a lengthy NHL career and now works in radio in

MARTY HASTINGS

The Tattle of

HASTINGS

Greg (Spike) Wallace hoists the Memorial Cup in 1994, with an elated Jarome Iginla looking on.

Edmonton and coaches hockey, while raising three young children. Smoke doesn’t ring a bell, but 44-yearold Strudwick remembers the feistiness. “It was rough and dirty and I loved it,”

Get in the game!

said Strudwick, a 6-foot-3, left-shot blue liner from Edmonton. “It was right up my alley. “It was before the Internet. I didn’t know one player on their team. We were

so well coached it didn’t matter. I credit Don Hay and Bob Brown. We played our way. Everybody else had to figure out how to match up.” Strudwick is a little foggy on the smoke inside Colisee de Laval, but longtime CFJC broadcaster, the sharply dressed Earl Seitz, is not hazy on it whatsoever. “Despite signs around the rink stating “ne pas fumer” (no smoking), it seemed almost everyone ignored the message, including one of the security persons who I saw standing below one of the signs, puffing away during a game,” Seitz writes in his Memorial Cup memoirs, which can be read on B8. “There was often a pall of smoke hanging over the ice.” Earl the Pearl was there when Kamloops knocked off the hosts 5-3 to claim their second national championship. Spiker, what about 1992? “Rob LeLacheur solidified our defence,” Wallace said. LeLacheur, the 48-year-old former blue liner who lives in St. Albert and runs a marketing agency, had doubts about the trade to Kamloops from Saskatoon in his 20-year-old season. See LELACHEUR, B4

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WEDNESDAY, February 19, 2020

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CUP MEMORIES MEMORIAL MEMORIAL CUP ANNIVERSARY LELACHEUR, CAMAZZOLA TALK JUNIOR HOCKEY GLORY DAYS

From B3

“I’ll never forget the first day, when Bob Brown was there to greet me with the nicest moment,” LeLacheur said, recalling a meeting that took place in the team office across from Memorial Arena. “He told me he tried protecting me when I was a 14-year-old and missed getting me by a day. I was excited, but it took some convincing. Do I want to keep going? I’m very thankful I said yes.” LeLacheur, whose rearguard teammates included Scott Niedermayer and Darryl Sydor, said head coach Tom Renney’s absence while on national duty at world juniors was a turning point. “It was a great time

for a bit of that change,” LeLacheur said, noting besting former team Saskatoon in Game 7 of the WHL final felt pretty sweet. “Hayzer had a bit more of a rugged approach to the game. We really embraced that under Don’s leadership. “When Tom came back from the world juniors, at the same time, L.A. sent back Darryl Sydor and New Jersey sent back Niedermayer. It was pretty good sailing from that point on.” And, of course, he remembers where he was for Zac Boyer’s legendary moment, the goal he

scored with 14.6 seconds remaining in the third period to dispatch Sault Ste. Marie 5-4 in the national championship title tilt in Seattle. “I was on the bench,” said LeLacheur, whose first Memorial Cup experience ended in defeat, when his hometown Blades fell 4-3 in OT to Swift Current in 1989. “I was out the shift before, when Eddy [Patterson] came off puking.” Spike said the 1990 WHL championship group helped paved the way for victory in 1992, that team led by the likes of Mike Needham, whose thoughts are on page B10. The 1986 team, the first to carry the Blazers’ name on a league championship run, featured Greg

Hawgood, Rob Brown and Greg Evtushevski, among others. Hear from Hawgood on page B6. Spike’s tenure in the Tournament Capital did not begin in earnest until after the 1983-1984 campaign, but he still threw around a name or two worth contacting, including Jim Camazzola. Those 1984 WHL champion Junior Oilers remain special to the 56-year-old Coquitlam resident. “It was crazy in Memorial Arena,” said Camazzola, who works in operations for Metro Vancouver. “It was always packed. The fans were so vibrant. That was good times. Good hockey. Tough hockey. Not like hockey today.

second year. I got into it against Medicine Hat. The guy hit me pretty good. That night I went home. I wasn’t feeling good. I was vomiting and I went to bed. It’s a really good thing the game has changed.” Ottawa shellacked Kamloops 7-2 in the Memorial Cup semifinal in Kitchener. Camazzola might not remember that defeat, but old teammates and friends are engrained in memory, some of whom he will run into this weekend. “I’m so looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what everybody looks like and what they’re doing in life.” More than 60 alumni are expected to return. “It’s going be absolutely incredible,” Spike said.

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“My son was a lacrosse player. We used to go up to Kamloops for tournaments. I took him into the old dressing room. It was really cool.” Spike suggested asking Camazzola about beach balls that used to find their way onto the ice after Blazers’ goals in the venerable barn on Victoria Street. Unfortunately, he cannot recall. “I wish I could remember more. It’s probably the concussions,” Camazzola said, noting he will never forget intimidating head coach Bill LaForge. “There are lots of things I don’t remember about the Memorial Cup, to be honest with you. “I remember having a fight one time in my

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CUP MEMORIES MEMORIAL MEMORIAL CUP ANNIVERSARY

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Bawa’s Blazers paved the way TIM PETRUK

STAFF REPORTER

tim@kamloopsthisweek.com

The Blazers’ franchise reached the Memorial Cup for the first time in 1984, following a league-leading regular season and dominant run through the WHL playoffs. “That year almost started the whole trend for the Blazers,” Robin Bawa, who was a 17-year-old forward on that final Kamloops Junior Oilers team, told KTW. “The following year, it got even bigger in the city. It was a fun time in my life playing hockey, that’s for sure.” The 1984 Memorial Cup was hosted by the Kitchener Rangers, who

the Junior Oilers faced in their round-robin opener, losing 9-7. Kamloops fell 5-1 to Ottawa in Game 2 before topping Laval 4-3 to close out preliminary play. The Ottawa 67s, who went on to hoist the Memorial Cup in 1984, beat Kamloops 7-2 in the semifinal. “The biggest thing to me about that year was the camaraderie from the guys,” Bawa said. “Every player on the team was such a team guy. With the leadership, it trickled down.” Bawa, the first player of South Asian descent to toil in the NHL, will be inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, in the pioneers’ category, on June 4.

MEMORIAL CUP ANNIVERSARY BASH The weekend of Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 will be spent celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Kamloops Blazers’ three Memorial Cups in four years. Dozens of players from WHL championship and Memorial Cup teams from 1984, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1995 will be on hand for the festivities. The weekend will begin with Gord Bamford’s #Rednek Music Fest at Sandman Centre on Feb. 21, featuring Juno Award winner

Jess Moskaluke, JoJo Mason, Eric Ethridge, Andrew Hyatt, Cory Marks, Duane Steele and GhostBoy. On Feb. 22 at Sandman Centre, there will be a hot stove segment with a number of former Blazers, plus a chance for fans to gather autographs. (Page B14 of this publication is a great place to collect the names.) At 7 p.m. on Feb. 22, the Blazers will face Calgary.

Happy 25th Anniversary of the Memorial Cup From all of us at

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WEDNESDAY, February 19, 2020

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MEMORIAL CUPCUP ANNIVERSARY MEMORIAL MEMORIES

Expectations met in 1986 MICHAEL POTESTIO

STAFF REPORTER

sports@kamloopsthisweek.com

WINE • SPIRITS • DOMESTIC & MICRO BEER • COOLERS • LIQUERS

The 1985-1986 Kamloops Blazers entered the season knowing they had what it took to succeed after back-to-back trips to the league finals. Losing wasn’t acceptable, said Greg Hawgood, one of the club’s blue-liners. “I don’t want to say we were cocky, but we were a confident group of guys because of our ability and preparation and we went into every game expecting to win,” Hawgood said. Expectation became reality as the Blazers had a third consecutive first-place finish in the Western Conference, with a 49-19-4 record under head coach Ken Hitchcock. Hawgood led the defence that season — with 119 points — while Blazer forward Rob Brown topped

the league in scoring, with 173 points. They dominated in the playoffs, going 14-2 en route to the WHL title. Their group was, in a word, resilient, Hawgood said. Nowhere was that more apparent than Game 4 of an opening-round best-of-nine series against the Seattle Thunderbirds — a road game that sticks out in franchise history as the Blazers rallied from an improbable 7-0 deficit to take a 4-0 series lead. Hawgood believes the tide shifted when a promotional car brought out for the second intermission broke down on the ice, extending the time the team had to regain its composure. Seattle also began selling tickets to another home game — assuming the contest at hand was a lock for the Thunderbirds. Not wanting to return for that

game, Hawgood said the team was compelled to victory. Hawgood tallied the equalizer at 19:59 of the third period to tie it 8-8. Rob Brown scored the winner in overtime and the Blazers won Game 5 to seal the series. Following the sweep, the Blazers defeated Portland and Medicine Hat to secure the league championship in front of the home crowd at Memorial Arena. That sent Kamloops to its second Memorial Cup in franchise history. A 9-3 semifinal loss to Hull Olympiques ended the team’s shot at the national championship. Looking back on that season, Hawgood said what made the group so successful was everyone’s willingness to give up individual accomplishments to get the win. “That just became the way it was if you wanted to be a Kamloops Blazer,” Hawgood said.

RAISING A “CUP” FOR OUR KAMLOOPS BLAZERS! KAMLOOPS’ BEST SELECTION OF VqA wINES AND BC CRAFT BEER

Greg Hawgood helped guide the Kamloops Blazers to a Western Hockey League title in 1986. The fleet-footed defenceman, who still lives in Kamloops, had 119 point that season and went on to play in the NHL, AHL, IHL and Europe from 1987 to 2006.

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CUP MEMORIES MEMORIAL MEMORIAL CUP ANNIVERSARY

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Kershaw, Grass among most faithful CHRISTOPHER FOULDS EDITOR editor@kamloopsthisweek.com

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here are certainly new Kamloops Blazers’ fans in Sandman Centre these days, those who have jumped onto the bandwagon during this sensational season. But there are also many diehard Blue and Orange fanatics who have been cheering on the club through Mount Everest highs and Death Valley lows. Bill Kershaw and Mike Graas are two such fans, both of whom have held season tickets every year since about the time the club arrived from New Westminster and briefly adopted the Junior Oilers monicker. That would be the early 1980s, meaning Kershaw and Graas — and their respective spouses —

have been going to games, save for about a half-dozen in a season, for just shy of four decades. “We’ve had a lot of highs and lows, but I’ve always enjoyed the hockey,” said Kershaw, the longtime regional district director who drives about 45 minutes from Barriere to cheer on the Blazers. “It’s the best hockey in the world, junior hockey. I get up for it. I sure like to win, like everybody else, but all I want the guys to do is go out there and play hard.” Kershaw recalls when he and his brother were among a select few to buy a five-year pack of season tickets for $500, a promotion the club created to help raise money for uniforms. That would be around the time community members pitched in to buy the remaining 66 per cent of the club from Peter Pocklington, the Edmonton Oilers’ owner who was thinking of selling the team to

a group in Swift Current. Both Kershaw and Graas remember well watching the club play in raucous Memorial Arena, its 2,000 seats right on top of the action in the cold 1940s-era barn. “The thing that strikes me the most is going back to Memorial now, and how small it was and how low the glass was and how dangerous it must have been in there,” Graas said. “When they shot the puck and it cleared the glass, it’s amazing no

one got hurt.” Kershaw recalls the pea soup haze under the stands, created by smokers between periods, not to mention the mad dashes by fans during intermissions to slake their thirst. “The whole place would run over there, to the curling rink or the David Thompson [Hotel], have a beer, and everybody would roar back to the arena again,” he said. Attending almost every game from the early 1980s to today can lead to memory overload. Both men, independent of each other, cited one in particular when asked to reach back into time — Dean Evason’s goal at Memorial with 12 seconds left in Game 6 of the 1983-1984 WHL final to send the contest against Regina into overtime. (Evason was last week named interim coach of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.)

Kamloops’ Ryan Stewart won it in extra time to tie the series at 3-3, with the Junior Oilers then triumphing in Game 7 — and claiming their first WHL title. Both Kershaw and Graas can call the play, movement by movement, as though they are still among the frenzied throng that night on Victoria Street. Regular attendees at Blazers’ games at Sandman Centre can find Kershaw in section S during play and nearby holding court during intermissions. Graas, the Kamloops Hall of Fame golfer, can be found in his usual place, in section Q, right above the visitors’ penalty box. And, yes, they already have their playoff tickets. “I love it,” Kershaw said of the present-day squad. “We’re playing the old Blazer hockey, where it’s run and gun and go. We’ve got talent.”

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YOUR MEMORIAL WEDNESDAY, February 19, 2020

www.kamloopsthisweek.com

KTW asked for memories of the championship years and Blazer fans responded — as did the man who called the team’s most famous goal on radio and a Kamloops sports broadcasting legend who has seen in all with the Blue and Orange. We hope you enjoy this ride down memory lane.

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hree of the most significant memories of a 52-year (and counting) broadcast career were covering the Blazers’ three Memorial Cup championships. I would like to share a personal memory about that first one — in 1992 in Seattle. It was the final between the Blazers and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and we were there to cover it for CFJC-TV. During the first intermission, I was sitting in the stands with our cameraperson, Evan Fitzer. From across the aisle came a big, booming voice said: “Seitz, what are you doing here?” I looked across at a familiar face and replied, “What are you doing here?” “I’m here to watch my son play in the Memorial Cup,” he replied. It was Pete Huska, the father of Ryan Huska, who was in his rookie season with the Blazers. Going back another 20 years to the early 1970s when I worked radio in Nelson, Pam Huska, Ryan’s mother, was our receptionist. During that 1992 season, Ryan’s first with the Blazers, I never made the connection with Pam and Pete — until that Memorial Cup final. My wife and I got to know the Huskas quite well. On the night before leaving Nelson for the move to Kamloops and CFJC-TV in early February 1974, with all of our belongings in a moving van, the Huskas provided us with a place to stay for the night. This was about 18 months before Ryan was born. I will always be grateful to Pam and Pete. Pam is a gracious and lovely lady and Pete, a former RCMP officer, was a big, friendly giant of a guy with a great sense of humour, Unfortunately, Pete passed away several years ago. That’s one of my two most memorable events from that 1992 Memorial Cup championship. The other, of course, happened with 14.6 seconds left. Ed Patterson, exhausted after a long shift, struggled to the bench. Zac Boyer came over the boards, took a breakaway pass from Scott Niedermayer — and the rest is history. Two years later, in 1994, the Blazers were back at the Memorial Cup, this time in Laval, Que., at the Colisée de Laval, nicknamed “The House of Pain.” It was a small and old rink, smaller than our Memorial Arena in Kamloops. Despite signs around the rink stating “ne pas fumer” (no smoking), it seemed almost everyone ignored the message, including one of the security persons who I saw standing below one of the signs, puffing away during a game. There was often a pall of smoke hanging over the ice. In the end, it was the Blazers who inflicted the pain in the “House of Pain” on the host team, defeating the Laval Titan 5-3 for their second Memorial Cup championship. Darcy Tucker was named Memorial Cup MVP. During that week in Laval, we all took a trip to Montreal for a tour of the legendary Forum. While in the Canadiens’ dressing room, then-Canadiens’ president Ronal Corey came in to address the Blazers team, When he was introduced to Darcy Tucker, Corey asked something to the effect of what Darcy planned to do or where he hoped to play pro hockey. Corey was apparently unaware his Cana-

diens had drafted Tucker the year before. I guess the president had other important things on his mind. Tucker still had a year of junior eligibility remaining. That would be the following season, 1994-1995 ,when the Memorial Cup tournament came to Kamloops. Along with the Blazers, the other teams were the Brandon Wheat Kings, who the Blazers had defeated to win the WHL title, the Hull Olympiques and the Detroit Junior Red Wings, coached by current Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice. After breezing through the round robin with a 3-0 record, the Blazers played the Junior Red Wings in the final. It was no contest — an 8-2 waltz for the Blazers and their third Memorial Cup in four years. And they were able to celebrate this one with all of their fans in Kamloops. Shane Doan was the 1995 Memorial Cup MVP and Jarome Iginla was named the most sportsmanlike player of the tournament. Three players — Ryan Huska, Tyson Nash and Darcy Tucker — were the only Blazers to play on all three of those Memorial Cup championship teams, in 1992, 1994 and 1995. They were also the only players ever to do it with the same team. The only other player in Memorial Cup history to play on three championship teams was Robert Savard and he did it with two different teams: Cornwall in 1980 and 1981 and Kitchener in 1982. The Kamloops Blazers became the model franchise in major junior hockey. No other team has been able to duplicate an incredible 12-season era between 1983-84 and 1994-95 of 10 first-place finishes, six league championships and three Memorial Cup titles.

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— EARL SEITZ, CFJC-TV

t was our daughter’s 17th birthday and Kamloops was hosting the Memorial Cup in the spring of 1995. As season ticket holders, we had been a part of the growing excitement for the past three seasons. Kamloops was all decked out in Blazers colours and everywhere you looked, banners were displayed in restaurants and store windows, proudly showing support. The team was the talk of the town and Riverside Coliseum was the place to be. Walking down Third Avenue, you couldn’t help but notice all the Memorial Cup banners welcoming everyone to Kamloops. My daughter was wearing her Blazers jersey autographed by the 1994 Memorial Cup team. We had welcomed them back from Laval, Que., and helped them celebrate that win with all their fans at centre ice in Riverside Coliseum. Horns were honking, there was a buzz in the air and you could feel the excitement growing as we made our way to the game. We all wanted to witness our Blazers keep the cup. What a special time to be part of history and watch that amazing team win its third national title. I can still remember Tina Tuner belting out Simply The Best from the arena’s audio system as the Blazers celebrated after the final buzzer. Looking back at my daughter’s scrapbook has brought back wonderful memories, so this was my opportunity to share them with you.

— DIANNE GASPER

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e hadn’t lived in Kamloops very long, but we were starting to really enjoy going to Blazers games. In 1994, I went to the box office and asked if I could get tickets for the last six games of the season. The box office lady gave me the seat numbers (only three sets of two were left). I ran around Riverside Coliseum and tried them all out. They were all good. So we attended the games and I thought nothing of it until I got a phone call in September, telling me to pick up my season ticket and Memorial Cup package. I didn’t realize I’d secured our seats the year before. Holy smokes! We were excited and happy. The Memorial Cup games were beyond exciting and we somehow managed to get tickets for our kids to most games. The biggest surprise was taking my mother in-law from Vancouver, who was  a super hockey fan. The Blazers won that night and the roof just about blew off with the cheering. She talked about it for years. Not only was the Memorial Cup exciting, but we were there for those exciting years with Darcy Tucker, Jarome Iginla and Ryan Huska,  to name a few. It was incredible time for the City of Kamloops. We are so happy we got to be a part of it.

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— LISSA GOODMAN

hat I remember the most about the 1995 Memorial Cup was the electrifying atmosphere in what was then Riverside Coliseum during each game the Blazers played in. The Sea of White, the signs hanging from the balconies and displayed in the stands, the noisemakers all throughout the building, the crowd chants, the hand-clapping. My hands were raw and numb for hours after each game from all the clapping and I was hoarse for a solid week after the Blazers won the Cup. As a transplant to Kamloops in the early 1990s, it was all a very surreal experience. It was also one of my proudest moments as a Kamloopsian (and still is to this day) and essentially firmed up any doubts I might have had of making Kamloops my permanent home.

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— CHRIS LAROUCHE

have fond memories of the early 1990s Kamloops Blazers’ Memorial Cup runs. I had season tickets during those years and attended home games with a co-worker and good friend, Jack Lamont, and his wife, Inez. There was so much excitement in the building during those games and the positive energy of the crowd was so contagious. As the 1995 year rolled around, Jack was having trouble navigating the steps to his seat and thought he needed a new prescription for his glasses. To make a long story short, Jack was eventually diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. What a devastating thing to happen to a person who was full of life. Jack really enjoyed attending Blazers games and his infectious personality was such that people couldn’t help but be drawn to him. For Jack to experience the Blazers’ win at home in 1995 was something special indeed and all the goals in the final game gave us all plenty of opportunities to cheer and eventually lose our voices. Leaving that game was one of the great sports experiences a fan can have, celebrating the victory with almost everybody we would come across. Unfortunately for Jack, his time in Kamloops came to an end not long after and he moved to Langley to be closer for medical treatment. Sadly, he passed away a few years later. Thankfully, the memories of those Blazer years, and the memories of Jack, will be around forever.

— TERRY LOWE


L CUP MEMORIES WEDNESDAY, February 19, 2020

www.kamloopsthisweek.com

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y husband, Keith, and I had won a bid at an auction for a Guatemala fundraiser. It was a very special sailing long weekend in 1995, generously donated by Ray and Joy Robinson. Then we discovered it was on the May long weekend — when the Memorial Cup was on! Ray, being a New Zealander, needed to have us explain the importance of us being here to cheer on the Blazers. Thankfully, he was kind enough to let us switch the trip to July. Our first-born, Stephen, was six months old and had been attending the games all season. He quietly managed through all the games, no problem. What will always be remembered, therefore, was his reaction when the Blazers scored the first goal of the Cup series. The cheering was so loud that he was vigorously startled in my arms — and howled! It was before ear muffs were commonly used for youngsters. Our family has had season tickets for almost 30 years and we are happy to support such a great organization. Congratulations, Blazers!

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— KATHY BOUGHTON

n 1994, my husband and I had season tickets for the Blazers and were avid fans. We had planned a May weekend trip to Roche Lake Resort with our then-10-year-old son Alex and his best friend, Thomas, that conflicted with the Memorial Cup broadcast. We had no intention of missing the Memorial Cup game, but realized we would have to listen to it on our truck radio. We had managed to reserve the last available cabin, which had only one set of bunk-beds and no TV or radio, but we made do. The boys, while hockey fans, too, were also really fond of the lake and the outdoors in general and didn’t have the patience to sit on the little cabin’s deck listening to the truck radio. So we took them for, a slow drive around the lake on the muddy gravel roads for the duration of the game. Every so often we had to stop and let the boys investigate something of interest, like a pond full of salamanders or a set of wildlife tracks in the mud, but always within earshot of the truck radio. So when the Blazers won, we had heard every play and celebrated beside the road with little-boy whoops and bigkid cheers.

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— CAL AND PAT MOULTON

n 1992, my dad and I boarded the fan bus headed for Seattle and it is still, to this day, one of my favourite memories. The excitement, the anticipation, the laughs! It was amazing! When Zak Boyer scored the winning goal, it was the best feeling ever. My dad picked me up and spun me around and we both had tears in our eyes. I love the memory, I loved the trip, I love the Blazers! On the bus on the way back, it was the most exciting atmosphere. Our boys had done it and we were a part of it. My dad and I had season tickets for as long as I could remember and spending time in Memorial Arena, followed by the “Multiplex,” was our special time together. I will be forever grateful that we were able to spend the time together at all those hockey games over the years. Our love for the Blazers still bonds us today. I take my children to games whenever I can and I am so happy that we are building those memories now. Always a Blazers fan!

— KELLY DIAOU

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e have been season ticket holders for more than 25 years. During that time, I volunteered with the Miss Kamloops Pageant. I can remember Jarome Iginla, Darcy Tucker, Hnat Domenichelli and Nolan Baumgartner escorting the candidates when they had their fashion shows

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— VI AND GERRY MARICLE

n May 17, 1992, my dad took my brother, Dave, and I to Seattle to watch the Kamloops Blazers play in the Memorial Cup. Although I don’t remember all the details, I remember the game being loud. Lots of our friends’ families went, too, and we were all the in the same row. We were cheering and screaming. It was a great game! Zac Boyer scored the winning goal on a breakaway with 14 seconds left and the Blazers’ fans erupted! I remember crying, high-fiving and hugging everyone around me. It was such an experience to be there. I also remember the drive home as one of the highlights. It was as though everyone on the highway was a Blazers’ fan showing off their blue and orange pride! Vehicles had banners and streamers and were covered in team colours. There was so much honking and waving. I have attended NFL, MLB and NHL games. I even attended the 1995 Memorial Cup in Kamloops when the Blazers won for the third time, but nothing has ever compared to that win in 1992! I will always be grateful to have experienced it. Go, Blazers, go!

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— JULIE DORMER, THE DORMER GROUP

he weekend of the 1994 Memorial Cup win coincided with my beautiful backyard wedding in Westsyde with 100 of our closest friends and family. The TV was on, of course, for the games. During the gift opening on the Sunday, the upstairs living room was very busy, with many of the guests going back and forth to watch the Blazers win and take part in the wedding festivities. Those were wonderful memories of hockey and my wedding. Such fun times!

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— SHARON ROBLIN

ou bet I was at the 1995 Memorial Cup. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I am a season ticket holder and was a billet for 18 seasons. Where else would I be? With my son and just a few thousand of our closest friends — at the rink, of course. It was May and it was stinking hot. There was a pregame barbecue in the park, with rallies and chants. It was so much fun! My son made a huge Blazer B flag and attached it to a hockey stick that went everywhere with us. We attended the Memorial Cup banquet, bought the Final 4 hockey cards (every single one signed by the players) and sported our jerseys and shorts for 10 days straight — unwashed of course because we were winning. I attended the team party afterward (oooh, the stories), but told my son he couldn’t go because he was too young. To this day, he reminds me that I made him miss out on completing a piece of history. I now live in Mexico full-time (and still listen to every game). Unfortunately, I will not make it back for the celebration.

— JULIE MCKAY JASON MCKAY (SCORNED SON)

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e all remember “the goal”. “Niedermayer – to Boyer – on a breakaway- dekes SCOOOREESSS.” Following a garbled exchange of two grown men sounding and acting like giddy teenagers, just one of us speaks. “Zac Boyer, with 14.6 seconds left, on a breakaway. And it’s 5-4 Blazers.“ Then those final few ticks before Scott Loucks rags the puck to kill the clock. “And the Kamloops Blazers have won the Memorial Cup for the first time in franchise history.” May 17, 1992, is a day I’ll never forget because I had the rare honour of calling that game on “Blazeradio NL.” And the emotion that came pouring out over those final few seconds was from the failed expectations of previous Kamloops teams that were also seemingly destined for greatness. Especially the 1986-1987 team, possibly the greatest ever in Kamloops, that couldn’t get over the hump of losing Rob Brown to a fractured ankle in the first minute of the third period of what was a meaningless season finale at Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster. Yes, we remember the pure and utter joy of 1992. But it didn’t start that way. Falling behind 4-0 to Sault Ste. Marie in the tourney opener and eventually losing 6-3 to the OHL champion Greyhounds ignited thoughts of, “Here we go again.” Like the 0-2 start in 1986 in Portland. Or the incredibly disappointing “three strikes and you’re out” fiasco of 1990 in Hamilton. There were 10 players from that 1990 squad who remembered that empty feeling and vowed it would not happen again. Specifically Boyer, Niedermayer, Daryl Sydor and Corey Hirsch, who made a spectacular save off Rick Kowalsky just moments before the winning goal. After the opening loss to the Soo, there was tremendous pressure on the team going into their next game on Sunday, May 10, against Verdun. The 4-0 win ended what was a five-game Memorial Cup losing streak for Kamloops and the rest, as they say, is history. I am convinced that 1992 team paved the way for the 1994 and 1995 champs to play with complete confidence. The next time the Blazers represent the WHL at the Memorial Cup, they will take a 12-game tournament winning streak into that championship event. I’ll leave you with this. The opening six lines to this story? Well, they and the entire game were recorded onto a few cassettes. One of them was presented to head coach Tom Renney. Back in 2011, I ran into Tom at the Young Stars NHL exhibition tournament in Penticton, when he was coach of the Edmonton Oilers. I was covering Winnipeg’s return to the NHL. After we were able to catch up, Tom told me that from time to time, when he needed a lift — like the day he was let go in Vancouver — he’d plug in that cassette and would immediately feel better. I know that for many Kamloops fans who were there that day or listening back home on radio before there was the internet, it puts a smile on their faces, too. And for that, how could it have been anything other than a privilege and a pleasure to have been a part of one of the most special days in Kamloops sports history?

— KELLY MOORE


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WEDNESDAY, February 19, 2020

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MEMORIAL MEMORIAL CUP ANNIVERSARY CUP MEMORIES

Needham harks back to Blue Thunder wonder MICHAEL POTESTIO

STAFF REPORTER

sports@kamloopsthisweek.com

The 1989-1990 Kamloops Blazers were a dominant team in the WHL, cruising to a 56-16-0 record under the tutelage of longtime head coach Ken Hitchcock. Leading the way was Blue Thunder — the league’s top scoring line of Mike Needham, team captain Phil Huber and Len Barrie, who was brought over from the Victoria Cougars. The trio put up a combined 462 points, with Barrie scoring 85 goals and 185 points to lead the league in scoring. Barrie’s 85 goals that

MIKE NEEDHAM

season stand as a franchise record. Needham said he has “no clue” how the line got its name, but some of his fondest memories of that

season were playing with Huber and Barrie, with the whole team competing hard for each other. “We were an older team, so lots of 19-yearolds and 20-year-olds, so a lot of guys had been through the battles before and knew how to win,” Needham said. The team also featured standout first- and second-year players Scott Niedermayer and Darryl Sydor, who were the top two scorers on the team’s defence. Fellow Blazer alumnus Zac Boyer remembers the team as a very skilled group, while Needham also credits the team’s depth and goaltending for their success that year.

playing in front of our fans in Kamloops. It was a buzz in the city,” Needham said of the team’s run that year. Jubilation came with winning the league championship, but also relief he said. “We were pretty much the No. 1-ranked team in Canada the whole year and there’s a little bit of pressure that goes along with that. We did it as a group and that’s something that can never be taken away from you,” Needham said. But it would be another unsuccessful Memorial Cup run as the Blazers dropped their first two games in overtime and lost their third game 4-2 to the Laval Titan.

A 112-point regular season had the Blazers finishing atop league standings, winning 33 of 36 home games which is a WHL record, tied with the 1989-1990 Seattle Thunderbirds and 1988-1989 Swift Current Broncos. The club went an impressive 14-3 in the playoffs, with 5-1 wins over the Spokane Chiefs in a division semifinal and Seattle in the division final in best-of-nine series. In moving on to win the league championship over the Lethbridge Hurricanes 4-1, the Blazers punched their ticket to a third Memorial Cup appearance in seven years. “It was always great

Needham said the result was a bit of a shock given how dominant the team had been that year, but noted how close those first two games were — an 8-7 loss to Kitchener Rangers and 7-6 against the Eric Lindros led Oshawa Generals. “I’m so proud of that group and how we played. We battled hard, but when you go into overtime it’s one shot, one lucky bounce, and unfortunately it didn’t go our way,” Needham said. Mike’s son, Matt, was 18 when named captain of the Blazers in September of 2013 and became the second player in franchise history to wear the C for three seasons.

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NIEDERMAYER FOUND BOYER IN 1992 MICHAEL POTESTIO

STAFF REPORTER

sports@kamloopsthisweek.com

The 1991-1992 season was the year the Kamloops Blazers finally took home the franchise’s first Memorial Cup in their fourth appearance in the CHL’s best-on-best tournament. The win came with one of the most iconic moments in Blazers’ history, when forward Zac Boyer scored a breakaway goal off a Scott Niedermayer pass in the final seconds of the game. “Interestingly enough, I was fortunate to go around the goalie and score a goal, but in my mind I was going to shoot the whole time,” Boyer said, noting dekes weren’t his forte. In that moment, however, he remembered the advice of former teammate Phil Huber, who told him when a goalie is flat-footed, go around him as your speed will win out every time. “The rest is history,” Boyer said, describing the 5-4 victory over the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds to secure the Cup as a relief. Niedermayer said it’s funny the way it all unfolded as the Greyhounds were almost the team with the

scoring chance, as they came across the blueline on an odd-man rush. “I was sort of caught out of position and it was an odd-man rush going back our way and, fortunately, they threw a pass and I was able to pick it off and go back and find Zac in behind their D,” Niedermayer said. “It’s crazy to think how close that was to maybe being a different outcome, but it’s pretty memorable to win a championship like that with only seconds left in the game.” Everything fell into place that year for what was a strong Kamloops Blazers’ squad, featuring the likes of future NHL stars Niedermayer, Darryl Sydor and Darcy Tucker. The team finished atop the WHL standings that year with a 51-17-4 record, lead by head coach Tom Renney and assistant Don Hay. In the playoffs, the Blazers swept the Tacoma Rockets 4-0 and doubled the Seattle Thunderbirds

4-2 before what Niedermayer described as a hard fought 4-3 series win over the Saskatoon Blades to win the team’s fourth league banner. This Blazers’ squad was battle-hardened, with about 10 returning players who still remembered the pain of losing in the 1990 Memorial Cup. Heading into the tournament this time, Niedermayer said, the team knew what to expect. After stumbling out of the gate in their first round-robin game of the Memorial Cup, losing 6-3 to the Greyhounds, the Blazers won every game to clinch the tournament. Boyer remembers a stern talking to from the coaching staff compelled the team to step up. In the next game, against Verdun, Corey Hirsch posted a shutout. One thing that made the team special that year, Boyer said, was the fact they were a close-knit group, with rookies and veterans who would do anything for each other. “Tyson Nash was at my house like a month ago. I live in Florida, he lives in Arizona — that’s how close we still are to this day. There’s something to be said for that,” Boyer said.

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WEDNESDAY, February 19, 2020

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STAFF REPORTER

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Chris Murray strikes a pose.

Chris Murray calls it the Forgotten Season. When the Kamloops Blazers beat Saskatoon in the WHL final to earn a trip to Laval for the 1994 Memorial Cup, Murray, now a city firefighter, was a 19-year-old forward. “I joke that it’s the forgotten season because it’s sandwiched in between the first win and the one at home,” he told KTW. “The real beauty of it is we were actually rebuilding. A lot of us who were on the first team in 1992 didn’t play really big roles in the first one.” The Blazers finished atop the WHL’s West Division and overall standings with 106 points before bouncing Seattle and Portland in subsequent divisional playoff rounds. It then took seven games to dis-

patch Saskatoon to get back to the Memorial Cup. Murray said he recalls a hostile home crowd awaiting the Blue and Orange in Laval. The Blazers beat the hosts 5-4 to open their tournament in a barn dubbed by locals “The House of Pain.” Kamloops and Laval would face off again in the final, which the Blazers won 5-3. “To have to play Laval again in the final in their building, it was a great run,” Murray said. “We had a lot of high-scoring guys, but our third and fourth lines came through. The details kind of escape me, but I remember the emotion of it all. To go through it and come out on top, it was just a fantastic experience.”

ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW FILE Chris Murray dusted off his skates for Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada in 2016. He dusted a few opponents with his fists back in the day.

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Tucker: Pressure was on and we dominated MARTY HASTINGS

STAFF REPORTER

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Everybody knew they had the best team. That might have been the most obvious potential stumbling block. But the 1994-1995 Kamloops Blazers were an unstoppable juggernaut, a copybook example of embracing expectations and thriving — using them as a catalyst. “The pressure of it, having won two before, being at home — that’s the thing I remember the most,” said Darcy Tucker, whose family commitments in Ontario will keep him from attending the party this weekend. “Just the expectation

was we were supposed to win, right from the start, and the added pressure and the way we handled it … I didn’t find we had any real hiccups.” Tucker credited organizational strength, from GM Bob Brown to head coach Don Hay to the scouting staff, which unearthed small-town gems others overlooked. “It was special,” said

Tucker, who, along with Ryan Huska and Tyson Nash, won Memorial Cup titles in 1992, 1994 and 1995. Kamloops posted a 52-14-6 regular-season record to finish with 110 points, 15 more points than the Brandon Wheat Kings, who placed second overall in WHL standings. The Blazers doubled the Wheat Kings 4-2 in the league final, recovering from a 2-0 series deficit by rattling off three victories in Brandon and striking the death-knell blow in Game 6 in Kamloops. Huska, Tucker, Nash, Hnat Domenichelli, Shane Doan, Nolan Baumgartner, Brad Lukowich, Jason Holland, Jarome Iginla, Jason Strudwick, Cam

Severson and Rob Skrlac were key cogs on a squad considered one of the greatest in junior hockey history. The heavy burden was released at the national championship tournament, at which the Blazers posted a 3-0 round-robin record and pulverized the Detroit Junior Red Wings 8-2 in the final. “Everybody was dressed in white as we won,” Tucker said. “I remember hoisting the Cup and seeing all the alumni up in the suites that had been basically built to hold some extra fans for that Memorial Cup season. “To me, it’s still surreal. You look back and it’s like a dream.”

From our team to yours, Kamloops’ MLAs

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WEDNESDAY, February 19, 2020

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Memorial Cup Memories 2020  

A salute to the championship Blazers

Memorial Cup Memories 2020  

A salute to the championship Blazers