The 1994-95 Kamloops Blazers are among the 2016 inductees who will be honoured by the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in Vancouver today (Thursday).
The Blazers won the Memorial Cup that season; it was their third championship in four years, the only time in the trophy’s now 99-year history that any team was able to show such dominance. In these days when parity is so valued by junior hockey leagues, it is an accomplishment that may never be matched.
The Blazers were the host team for that 1995 Memorial Cup tournament. It was held at what then was Riverside Coliseum. The tournament also featured the Brandon Wheat Kings, Detroit Jr. Red Wings and Hull Olympiques.
That Blazers team comprised Jeff Ainsworth, Jeff Antonovich, Terry Bangen, Nolan Baumgartner, Rod Branch, Bob Brown, Ashley Buckberger, Ed Dempsey, Greg Deverson, Shane Doan, Hnat Domenichelli, Greg Hart, Don Hay, Brian Henderson, Jason Holland, Ryan Huska, Jarome Iginla, Jeff Jubenville, Aaron Keller, Donnie Kinney, Brad Lukowich, Bob Maudie, Keith McCambridge, Kevin McDonald, Tyson Nash, Cam McCormick, Shawn McNeil, Jeff Oldenborger, Randy Petruk, Scott Sherwood, Rob Skrlac, Andrei Sryubko, Jason Strudwick, Darcy Tucker, Ivan Vologianinov and Bob Westerby.
What follows is a look back at the Blazers and that 1995 championship run.
Not since the halcyon days of the New Westminster Bruins (1975-78) had the WHL seen anything close to what the Kamloops Blazers had accomplished.
While the Bruins won four straight WHL championships and back-to-back Memorial Cup titles, the Blazers went into the 1994-95 season having;
(a) posted six straight seasons of at least 40 victories;
(b) reached the West Division final in each of the past 11 seasons;
(c) reached the WHL final six times in those 11 seasons; and,
(d) won five WHL titles over that span.
On top of all that, the Blazers had won two of the past three Memorial Cups — winning the 1994 title in Laval and the 1992 championship at Seattle.
By the time the 1994-95 hockey season wound down, the Blazers had added to each of those distinctions.
Make it seven straight seasons with more than 40 victories, 12 straight West Division finals, seven WHL finals in 12 seasons; and, six WHL titles over that period of time.
There can be no denying this was a dynasty.
And the 1994-95 edition of the Blazers, under general manager Bob Brown and head coach Don Hay, would simply add to it.
This team did it knowing that it was already in the Memorial Cup tournament. That's because the 5,122-seat Riverside Coliseum would serve as home to the 1995 tournament.
The Kamloops lineup included three players — centres Darcy Tucker and Ryan Huska and left-winger Tyson Nash — with the opportunity to win three Memorial Cup rings.
The Blazers breezed through the WHL's regular season, posting a 52-14-6 record. Their 110 points left them on top of the West Division, 22 points ahead of the Tacoma Rockets and 15 better than the Brandon Wheat Kings, who topped the East Division with a 45-22-5 record.
Tucker was the spark on this team, both through his offensive talents and his ability to get under the other team's skin.
Offensively, he totalled 137 points, including 64 goals, in 64 games. That left him three points shy of WHL scoring champion Daymond Langkow of the Tri-City Americans, who played 72 games. Tucker went on to lead the WHL playoffs in goals (16) and points (31).
Left-winger Hnat Domenichelli also broke the 100-point barrier, his 114 points including 52 goals.
Centre Shane Doan chipped in with 94 points, while Ashley Buckberger, a midseason acquisition from the Swift Current Broncos, had 82 points.
Although this team led the WHL with 375 goals — there were eight 20-goal men and nine players with at least 50 points — it wasn't recognized as a high-powered offensive machine.
For the record, the 50-point men were Tucker, Domenichelli, Doan, Buckberger, defenceman Aaron Keller (80), Nash (75), Ivan Vologjaninov (72), Jarome Iginla (71) and Huska (67).
Rather, this was a team that could play defence with the best of them.
In fact, the Blazers surrendered only 202 goals, the lowest such total in the WHL since the Saskatoon Blades had allowed 184 goals over a 68-game schedule in 1972-73.
The defence featured the likes of Keller, Brad Lukowich, Nolan Baumgartner and Jason Holland, who combined for 45 goals and 210 points. And they made a great midseason pickup when they acquired 20-year-old Keith McCambridge, who was a rock defensively, from Swift Current in the Buckberger deal.
In goal, the Blazers counted on Rod Branch and Randy Petruk.
Branch had been the No. 1 guy through most of the 1993-94 season but then took a backseat to Steve Passmore in the WHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup.
In 1994-95, Branch set a franchise record with a 2.60 GAA and tied another Kamloops record with five shutouts. He was 35-11-2 with a .900 save percentage in 50 games.
Petruk was the backup. A 16-year-old rookie from Cranbrook, B.C., who would turn 17 during the playoff run, Petruk got into 27 games, finishing 16-3-4 with a 2.91 GAA.
Come the postseason, Branch would go 10-4 with a league-best 2.19 GAA in 15 games. Petruk would get into seven games and finish 5-2 with a 2.70 GAA.
In the Memorial Cup, however, Petruk would start and finish all four of the Blazers' games.
The Blazers opened the playoffs in a first-round West Division round-robin series. They and the Portland Winter Hawks each went 3-1 to eliminate the Seattle Thunderbirds (0-4).
Kamloops then took out Portland, winning a best-of-seven semifinal series in five games. In the division final, the Blazers got past Tri-City, 4-2.
That moved Kamloops into the WHL's championship final, against Brandon. It went six games, with the Blazers wrapping it up at home, thanks to a 5-4 overtime victory on May 7.
That gave them their third WHL title in four seasons, as close as a team can get to New Westminster's record streak of four in a row.
"I think when we're working hard, we're unbeatable,” offered Brown, the primary architect of this organization. "And when we're not working hard, we're just average.
"As far as team camaraderie and work ethic goes, this has to rank up there with the best ever.”
With the Blazers already in as the host team, the Wheat Kings, as WHL runner-up, also moved into the Memorial Cup tournament.
They had come awfully close to winning the WHL championship. After all, they had opened the final series by winning the first two games right in Kamloops. Alas, they would lose the next three games in Brandon and then lose Game 6 in overtime in Kamloops.
Brandon had not been in a Memorial Cup since 1979 when it lost the final, 2-1 in overtime, to the Peterborough Petes in the Verdun Auditorium.
The Wheat City was still the only city to have had a team in the final for the Stanley Cup, Allan Cup and Memorial Cup, and to never have won.
It wasn't that long ago that the Wheat Kings were the laughingstock not only of the WHL but of junior hockey in general.
This franchise had bottomed out in 1990-91, when it won only 19 games, and in 1991-92, when it posted just 11 victories.
But through it all general manager Kelly McCrimmon had a plan. He stuck to that plan and now it was paying off.
The Wheat Kings finished second in their division in 1992-93, with a 43-25-4 record, but were upset by the Medicine Hat Tigers in a first-round playoff series.
In 1993-94, Brandon again was second in its division (42-25-5) and this time made it to the East Division final.
And then came 1994-95.
The Wheat Kings, under head coach Bob Lowes, went 45-22-5 to finish first in the East Division.
Like the Blazers, the Wheat Kings had two 100-point men (Marty Murray, the league's most valuable player, with 128, and 62-goal man Darren Ritchie, with 114). And, like Kamloops, Brandon had nine players with at least 50 points — Chris Dingman (83), Alex Vasilevskii (83), Mike Leclerc (69), Bryan McCabe (69), Wade Redden (60), Peter Schaefer (59) and Bobby Brown (51).
(Redden's father, Gord, had played in the 1959 Memorial Cup final with the Regina Pats. A postseason pickup from the Weyburn Red Wings, Gord scored the winning goal for Regina in the seventh game of the Western Canadian championship series for the Abbott Cup.)
McCrimmon made a key move in midseason by acquiring McCabe, a skilled defenceman, from the Spokane Chiefs. He and Redden gave Brandon an awesome one-two punch on the blue line.
Byron Penstock was the go-to goaltender in the regular season at 27-16-4 with a 3.16 GAA and four shutouts. Brian Elder was no slouch, either, as his 16-5-1 record and 3.12 GAA in 23 games would attest.
The Wheat Kings earned a first-round bye and then won a best-of-seven series from the Moose Jaw Warriors in five games. Next up, in the East Division final, were the Prince Albert Raiders. Brandon won that series in seven games.
Then, of course, the Wheat Kings were beaten by the Blazers in the championship final.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Jr. Red Wings, under head coach Paul Maurice, were winning their first OHL title.
An expansion franchise granted on Dec. 11, 1989, and beginning play in 1990-91, the Jr. Red Wings had shown annual improvement.
They had won but 11 games in their first season, and improved to 23 the second season.
In 1992-93, they were legitimate contenders, going 37-22-7 and finishing second in the Emms Division. They followed that up with a 42-20-4 record and a first-place finish in 1993-94 when they lost Game 7 of the championship final to the North Bay Centennials.
This time, they rang up a 44-18-4 record, good for first place in the West Division — the OHL now was a three-division league. Their 92 points left them tied for second in all of the OHL (with the Sudbury Wolves), seven points in arrears of the Central Division-winning Guelph Storm.
The Red Wings offered up a well-balanced team — their 306 goals scored was the third-highest such figure in the league and their 223 goals-against left them with the third-best defence.
Without a doubt, there were three key players.
The first was goaltender Jason Saal. He got into 51 of Detroit's 66 games and put up a 3.18 goals-against average.
The second was defenceman Bryan Berard. In his rookie season, he totalled 75 points, including 20 goals, in 58 games. In the end, he was the league's rookie of the year. He was also on the league's first all-star team, as well as the rookie all-star team.
The third was centre Bill McCauley, who would finish 11th in the OHL scoring derby, with 102 points, including 41 goals.
And, Sean Haggerty was no slouch, either, as he proved with 40 goals and 49 assists in 61 games.
Still, this was the season in which Guelph was supposed to win it all.
The Storm finished with a 47-14-5 record and wound up with three all-star players to Detroit's one, along with the league's best defensive record.
But the Storm wouldn't win it all.
With the new division format, a team now would have to go through four best-of-seven series to win the championship.
Detroit began by sweeping the London Knights and Peterborough Petes.
Sudbury was next and this series went seven games, the Red Wings taking Game 7 by an 11-4 count.
And, in the final, it was as it should be — Detroit versus Guelph. The Red Wings won it in six games, becoming the first American-based team to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champions.
The Red Wings won the sixth game, 5-4, on Berard's goal at 9:35 of the third period.
As for being a U.S. team, Berard told the Toronto Sun: "We don't think about that kind of thing. We're playing in the Canadian Hockey League. We don't say, ‘This guy is American, this guy is Canadian.' What makes this so great is that we're a team.”
Berard was brilliant in the playoffs, scoring four goals and setting up 20 others in 21 games. McCauley led the playoffs in assists (27) and points (39), with Haggerty second, at 37 points.
Saal played in 18 postseason games, putting up a 2.88 GAA, the best in the league.
At the same time, the Hull Olympiques, under head coach Robert Mongrain, were earning the right to carry the QMJHL's colors into the tournament. Mongrain had scored three goals for the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs in the 1979 tournament.
And now he would try to help the Olympiques become the first Quebec-based team to win the Memorial Cup since Guy Lafleur and the Quebec Remparts won it in 1971. By now, this was become a far too familiar refrain in the QMJHL.
Hull had put together a 42-28-2 regular season, its 86 points leaving it 10 behind the first-place Laval Titan in the Lebel Division.
This was a Hull team that would beat you on offence — plain and simple. Led by captain and centre Sebastien Bordeleau, a first-team all-star, it scored 340 goals in 72 games, 38 more than Laval and 15 more than the second-best offence in the league. But on defence the Olympiques gave up 274 goals, only the sixth-best such figure.
Which is why goaltender Jose Theodore was so important. His 3.46 GAA was only the fifth-best among goaltenders who played in at least 30 games. But he was named the winner of the Shell Cup as the league's best defensive player and was a second-team all-star.
Bordeleau's father, Paulin, had played for two Memorial Cup champions — the Montreal Junior Canadiens (1970) and Toronto Marlboros (1973) — and also coached the Laval Titan in the 1989 tournament. Sebastien was born in Vancouver, while his father was with the NHL's Canucks.
Like father, like son. Paulin was a sniper, and so was Sebastien, who finished second in the QMJHL points derby, with 128, including 52 goals.
Hull's other big gun was centre Martin Menard, who finished with 100 points, while right-winger Michael McKay had 88 points, including 60 assists.
Again, the QMJHL was using best-of-seven series and a round-robin series in its playoff format.
The Olympiques began by ousting the St. Hyacinthe Laser in five games. They then moved into a six-team round-robin series, and while they only managed to go 3-3 that was still good enough to move into the third round. There, they met up with the Beauport Harfangs, whom they sidelined in five games.
The championship final also lasted five games, with Hull winning out over Laval. The Olympiques won the fifth game 4-3 in overtime, with Harold Hersh getting the winner at 14:04 of the first extra period.
Bordeleau led the playoffs in goals (13) and points (32). His next closest teammate was Jonathan Delisle, with 19 points.
Theodore went 15-6 in the postseason, with a sparkling 2.80 GAA.
The Olympiques, however, didn't get off to a very good start in Kamloops.
The tournament opened on May 13 with Brandon hammering Hull, 9-2, before 5,500 fans, outshooting the Olympiques 42-29 in the process.
(Attendance for every one of the tournament's eight games would be announced as 5,500, providing a total attendance of 44,000.)
It was the most one-sided decision in the tournament since the hometown Regina Pats whipped the Cornwall Royals, 11-2, on May 8, 1980.
Ritchie led the Wheat Kings with three goals and McCabe had two goals and three assists. Schaefer, Colin Cloutier, Darren Van Oene and Scott Laluk had Brandon's other goals.
McKay and Delisle replied for Hull, which trailed 3-0 and 6-0 by periods.
Theodore left at 9:34 of the second period, having stopped 15 of 21 shots and with Brandon ahead 6-0. Neil Savary finished up.
The Wheat Kings followed that up by losing 4-3 to Detroit on May 14.
"We didn't play very well,” Lowes said. "Having a few gifts at the end made it close, but for the most part we weren't a very good team.”
The Red Wings broke open a scoreless game with three second-period goals — from Berard, Dan Pawlaczyk and McCauley.
Cloutier got Brandon on the board at 11:44 of the third period only to have Jeff Mitchell restore Detroit's three-goal edge at 13:16.
Mike Dubinsky and Schaefer closed the scoring for Brandon.
This game gave scouts a good look at Berard and Redden, the two highest-rated defencemen going into the NHL's 1995 draft.
"I just want to do anything to help the team win,” Berard said, after scoring once and setting up another. "I'm looking for the Memorial Cup trophy and hopefully that'll come true.”
Redden had the misfortune of getting his stick caught along the boards in the first period and skating into it. He suffered a bruise underneath his rib cage but was back in action in the second period.
The Wheat Kings also lost Murray, their captain, when he took a puck in the face with five minutes to play in the third period. Fortunately, he wasn't seriously hurt and wouldn't miss any games.
The Olympiques fell to 0-2 in the second game on May 14 when they dropped a 4-1 decision to Kamloops.
"We took some stupid penalties,” said Theodore, who made 45 saves and was beaten for three power-play goals. "Kamloops played a great game and it's hard to score goals when you're on the defence all night. I had to bounce back tonight, but we still lost.”
Iginla had two goals for Kamloops, including an empty-netter at 19:26 of the third period. Doan and Keller also scored for Kamloops, which led 3-1 after the first period.
Delisle, who had 59 points and 218 penalty minutes in the regular season, continued his fine play with Hull's lone goal.
"We were really excited and juiced up to play,” Iginla said. "It was good to get the jitters out and get our first game over with.”
You can bet there was some nervousness on the Kamloops bench when Tucker went down clutching his left knee late in the first period. But he was back for the start of the second period and played regularly afterwards.
The Blazers improved to 2-0 on May 16, getting two goals from each of Domenichelli and Doan as they edged the Red Wings, 5-4.
Tucker had the other goal for Kamloops, which led 2-0 and 3-2 by periods and then scored twice midway in the third.
Haggerty, with two, Matt Ball and Mike Rucinski scored for Detroit.
Petruk stopped 25 shots in upping his record to 2-0. Saal made 29 saves.
"It's tough being here in Kamloops,” Doan admitted later, "because we're expected to win. But it's a bonus, too, because we play that much harder.
"When the fans get behind us, it's such a great feeling to hear the 5,500 going nuts with all the towels and wearing white shirts.”
It was a big game for Domenichelli, who was one of four Hartford Whalers' draft picks in the game, the other three — Ball, Tom Buckley and Rucinski — all being on the Detroit roster.
"They said I have to get a little more involved,” Domenichelli said of reaction to his play in the Blazers' first game. "I knew this was a big game with everybody here.
"I had to prove to the Hartford Whalers organization that they didn't make a mistake on me and that I'm as good as, if not better than, the guys that were on the ice for Detroit.”
Hull fell to 0-3 on May 17 and was eliminated as it lost, 5-2, to Detroit, which got three goals from Haggerty. He scored Detroit's first three goals, getting one in each period. McCauley and Carl Beaudoin, the latter into an empty net, also scored for the winners.
Bordeleau, with the game's first goal, and Hersh scored for Hull, which was outshot, 34-29.
On May 19, with a berth in the final on the line, the Blazers got another big game out of Iginla, Domenichelli and Tucker as they beat Brandon, 6-4.
"Hnat and Darcy help on and off the ice — they demand a lot,” said Iginla, who had two goals. "They don't want me to come out and slow them up, so I have to be ready every game.
"It's good that they demand that.”
Tucker set up three goals, with Maudie, Doan, Nash and Vologjaninov getting Kamloops' other goals.
Mark Dutiaume, with two, Schaefer and McCabe scored for Brandon.
Schaefer opened the scoring only to have the Blazers score three times before the period ended. Vologjaninov gave the Blazers a 4-1 lead early in the second period, but Dutiaume scored twice before the period ended to get Brandon back into it.
Iginla and McCabe traded goals at 9:23 and 15:31 of the third period before Nash put it away at 18:32.
When it was over, Lowes pointed to Maudie's goal, a shorthanded effort that broke a 1-1 tie at 12:55 of the first period, as perhaps the key moment.
"The shorthanded goal really changed the momentum,” he said. "There were too many times that we shot ourselves in the foot.”
Kamloops outshot Brandon, 37-29, with Petruk and Elder going the distance in goal.
Brandon had left-winger Chris Dingman back in the lineup for the first time in five weeks. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Dingman had been out with a knee injury.
But the Wheat Kings lost Ritchie, their key sniper, with a strained left knee. He was listed as doubtful for the semifinal against Detroit. He dressed but didn't score.
But then only one of the Wheat Kings did score as they lost, 2-1, to Detroit in the semifinal game on May 20.
Defenceman Justin Kurtz gave Brandon a 1-0 lead at 6:35 of the first period and the Wheat Kings nursed that edge into the third period.
It lasted until 6:54 when Milan Kostolny tied it. And then, at 14:50, Ball scored the game-winner on a power play.
Saal stopped 30 shots to up his record to 2-1; Penstock made 30 saves in his lone Memorial Cup appearance.
The following day, on May 21, the Blazers unleashed a 50-shot barrage, 28 of them in a six-goal second period, as they whipped Detroit, 8-2, to win their second straight Memorial Cup title and their third in four seasons.
Kamloops became the seventh team to win back-to-back championships. The others — Oshawa Generals (1939-40), Toronto Marlboros (1955-56), Montreal Junior Canadiens (1969-70), New Westminster Bruins (1977-78), Cornwall Royals (1980-81) and Medicine Hat Tigers (1987-88).
No team had ever won three Memorial Cup titles in four seasons.
Petruk kicked out 25 shots as he lifted his record to 4-0. Saal was lifted at 13:37 of the second period and replaced by
Darryl Foster with Kamloops ahead 5-0.
Tucker, Huska and Nash, each of whom played on all three Kamloops Memorial Cup winners, scored in the game.
Huska scored twice, with Tucker and Nash adding one each. Keller, Maudie, Lukowich and Jeff Antonovich added the other goals.
Mitchell and Eric Manlow scored for Detroit.
"Everyone knew it was our third,” Tucker said. "We just relished the moment.”
As mentioned, he, Huska and Nash ended up with three Memorial Cup rings — from 1992, '94 and '95.
That doesn't quite equal the feat performed by defenceman Robert Savard, who played on three straight Memorial Cup winners — the Cornwall Royals in 1980 and '81 and the Kitchener Rangers in '82.
But, hey, three titles in four years is quite an accomplishment by anyone's standards.
Doan, who had missed the 1994 title game with a knee injury, set up two goals in the 1995 final and finished with a tournament-high nine points. He was selected the most valuable player.
Saal was named the top goaltender, with Iginla taking the sportsmanship award.
The all-star team comprised Saal, Baumgartner, McCabe, Tucker, Haggerty and Doan.
The final game was refereed by veteran WHL official Kevin Muench of Moose Jaw. He would later retire from the WHL, saying that he wanted to go out on top and refereeing the final game of the Memorial Cup allowed him to do that.
Two weeks after the Memorial Cup, Kamloops president Colin Day fired Brown, the man who had put together three Memorial Cup winners. It was time, Day said, to go in a different direction.