1981-82 – Kamloops Jr. Oilers are Born
On July 2, 1981 junior hockey was reborn in Kamloops, BC. After the New Westminster Bruins were purchased by Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, decided to move the franchise to Kamloops. A local interest group in Kamloops raised $110,000 to purchase 33% of the franchise from Pocklington. The first General Manager of the Kamloops Jr. Oilers was Harvey Roy, while Lyle Moffat was named the team’s Head Coach. Doug Kostynski was named the Jr. Oilers first-ever Captain. The hockey club’s first season in Kamloops was not glamorous as Moffat was replaced by Ron Harris midway through the season. Junior hockey was back in Kamloops though, and good things were to come for the franchise.
Team Record: 18-53-1, 4th West (Spokane folded midway through season)
Playoffs: Lost in West Division Semi-Final (4 games to 0 to Portland)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Doug Kostynski – 39 Goals, 42 Assists, 81 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Dean Evason, Darryl Murray – 3 Points
Notable Players: Dean Evason, Doug Kostynski, Jan Ludvig, Richard Hajdu
1982-83 – A Much Improved Season
After a disappointing inaugural season in Kamloops, the Jr. Oilers hired Bill Laforge as the team’s General Manager and Head Coach. The Jr. Oilers started the season on a tear with a 15-1 record which included a 10-0 record at Memorial Arena. The hockey club hit a few road blocks as the season went on, including losing Marc Habscheid to injury after he recorded 23 points in only 6 games. It was a 55 point improvement from the previous season, but the Jr. Oilers bowed out in the first round of the playoffs losing a best-of-7 series to the Victoria Cougars 4-3. There was promise for the following year led by the return of team Captain and star Dean Evason who was the league’s Player of the Year.
Team Record: 46-26-0, 3rd West
Playoffs: Lost in West Division semi-final (4 games to 3 to Victoria)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Dean Evason – 71 Goals, 93 Assists, 164 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Dean Evason, Garth Butcher – 12 Points
Notable Players: Dean Evason, Garth Butcher, Jim Cammazola, Doug Bodger, Dean Clark, Gord Mark, Robin Bawa, Mark Ferner, Marc Habscheid, Todd Ewen, Craig Berube
1983-84 – The Beginning and the End
This was the year the Jr. Oilers made a name for themselves. It was the final season that the hockey club would be named the Kamloops Jr. Oilers, and it would also be their first championship season in Kamloops. The team was led by returning veterans Dean Evason, Greg Evtushevki and Doug Bodger, but had a taste of the future with two dynamic 15-year-olds in Greg Hawgood and Rob Brown. The Jr. Oilers finished the season atop the Western Conference and swept two best-of-9 series’ defeating Seattle and Portland 5-0 on their way to the League Final. It was one of the most memorable League Finals in WHL history as the Jr. Oilers took on the Regina Pats. The Jr. Oilers were down 3-2 in the best-of-7 series with Game 6 and 7 at Memorial Arena in Kamloops. With the Jr. Oilers down 3-2 late in Game 6, Dean Evason, the team’s Captain, scored with only 12 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Rookie forward Ryan Stewart was the hero scoring 13:13 into overtime to force a Game 7. Stewart scored the winning goal and Evason had an insurance marker as the Jr. Oilers won 4-2 and earned a birth into the Memorial Cup. Despite a disappointing showing at the tournament held in Laval, Que, the Kamloops Jr. Oilers won the hearts of the city of Kamloops and ignited a passion for winning.
Team Record: 50-22-0, 1st West
Playoffs: Won League Championship (4 games to 3 over Regina)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Dean Evason – 49 Goals, 88 Assists, 137 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Dean Evason – 41 Points
Notable Players: Dean Evason, Doug Bodger, Rob Brown, Jim Cammazola, Dean Clark, Robin Bawa, Gord Mark, Mark Ferner, Ken Daneyko, Greg Hawgood, Mark Kachowski, Rudy Poeschek, Daryl Reaugh, Ryan Stewart
1984-85 – The Blazers are Born
Peter Pocklington was ready to sell the franchise to Swift Current, but the local community raised $180,000 to purchase the remaining 66% of the hockey club to keep it in Kamloops. Shares for the hockey club were sold for $1000, as the Kamloops community banded together to save the franchise from leaving Kamloops. The funds were raised, and a “name the team contest” concluded with the Blazers as the winning nickname. Head Coach Bill Laforge moved on to the Vancouver Canucks, while the Blazers decided to hire some guy named Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock had previously coached the Sherwood Park Midget AAA team eight years with a remarkable 518-43 record and four trips to the national final. The Blazers continued their winning ways improving to 52-wins and first place in the Western Conference. A dominant playoff performance by the Blazers, defeating Portland 5 games to 1 and New Westminster 5 games to 0, sent the team to the league final against the Prince Albert Raiders. The Raiders were too much for the Blazers, sweeping the best of seven series 4 games to 0.
Team Record: 52-17-2, 1st West
Playoffs: Lost League Championship (4 games to 0 to Prince Albert)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Greg Evtushevski – 47 Goals, 93 Assists, 140 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Gordie Walker, Todd Carnelley – 27 Points
Notable Players: Gordie Walker, Rob Brown, Greg Hawgood, Mark Ferner, Dean Clark, Mark Kachowski, Gord Mark, Rob DiMaio, Brian Benning, Robin Bawa, Rudy Poeschek, Daryl Reaugh, Ryan Stewart, Mike MacWilliam
1985-86 – The Dominance Continues
A season of normalcy and stability was had by the Blazers in 1985-86. The franchise was community owned, and a strong on-ice product led to continued success. Rob Brown, in his third season with the franchise at only 17-years-old, led the league in scoring with 173 points. The Blazers finished 1st in the Western Conference for the third consecutive year and were to play Seattle in a best of nine series to open the playoffs. The Blazers won the first three games, but game four may have been one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history. Down 7-0 midway through the second period, the Blazers stormed back as Greg Hawgood scored 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 five to seal the series. The Blazers seemed to cruise from there as they downed Portland five games to one and then defeated Medicine Hat in the league final with a convincing four games to one series victory. The franchise’s second trip to the Memorial Cup was unsuccessful once again. A 9-3 semi-final loss to the Hull Olympiques ended the team’s shot at a national championship. Despite the Memorial Cup showing, it was another successful season for the Blazers. The hockey club was optimistic as most of the 1985-86 team was returning for the coming season.
Team Record: 49-19-4, 1st West
Playoffs: Won League Championship (4 games to 1 to Medicine Hat)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Rob Brown – 58 Goals, 115 Assists, 173 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Rob Brown – 46 Points
Notable Players: Rob Brown, Greg Hawgood, Mark Kachowski, Robin Bawa, Ron Shudra, Craig Berube, Ryan Stewart, Rudy Poeschek, Dave Marcinyshyn, Rob DiMaio
1986-87 – Records Etched in Stone
The Blazers had another tremendous season in 1986-87. The team set a WHL record, which still stands, scoring an astonishing 496 goals. Rob Brown led the WHL in scoring, finishing with 76 goals, 136 assists and 212 points. Brown’s 136 assists and 212 points both still stand as league records and are unlikely to ever be touched. There were five players that cleared 100 points as Greg Hawgood (123), Ron Shudra (119), Robin Bawa (113), and Darcy Norton (102) joined Rob Brown in the 100-point club. The Blazers won the West Division for the fourth consecutive year and swept a first round best-of-nine series 5 games to 0 over the Victoria Cougars. This set up another Conference Final match against the Portland Winter Hawks for the fourth time in five years. Despite a terrific season, the Blazers came up short losing 5 games to 3 in the Conference Final. The Medicine Hat Tigers defeated Portland 4 games to 3 in the League Final, and went on to win the Memorial Cup.
Team Record: 55-14-3, 1st West
Playoffs: Lost Western Conference Final (5 games to 3 to Portland)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Rob Brown – 76 Goals, 136 Assists, 212 Points (WHL RECORD)
Leading Playoff Scorer: Greg Hawgood – 23 Points
Notable Players: Rob Brown, Greg Hawgood, Mark Recchi, Robin Bawa, Ron Shudra, Warren Babe, Dave Marcinyshyn, Steve Nemeth, Glenn Mulvenna, Rudy Poeschek, Mike Needham, Scott Daniels
1988-89 – Middle of the Pack
It was finally a rebuilding year as the Blazers would finish just above .500. There were many bright spots to the squad as stand out Dave Chyzowski netted 56 goals and was selected 2nd overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. Chyzowski remains as the highest ever Blazer to be picked in the NHL Draft. Despite finishing the season three points behind the Victoria Cougars in the standings, the Blazers managed to knock off the Cougars 5 games to 3 in a best-of-9 Conference Semi-Final. This led to another Conference Final series versus the Portland Winter Hawks. The Blazers fell short in the series, 5 games to 3, but the team was destined to better next year. Phil Huber, Dave Chyzowski and Pat MacLeod all finished in the top 10 among playoff scorers, while 16-year-old goaltender Corey Hirsch and 16-year-old defenseman Darryl Sydor each got their start with the Blazers. There were many good things to come for the franchise.
Team Record: 34-33-5, 3rd West
Playoffs: Lost Conference Final (5 games to 3 to Portland)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Phil Huber – 54 Goals, 68 Assists, 122 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Phil Huber – 31 Points
Notable Players: Pat MacLeod, Dave Chyzowski, Geoff Smith, Mike Needham, Zac Boyer, Darryl Sydor, Paul Kruse, Corey Hirsch
1989-90 – A Championship Season
The return of Dave Chyzowski was unlikely as he spent a majority of the year with the New York Islanders, but another star, Len Barrie, was brought over from the Victoria Cougars. The Blazers had a tremendous season finishing with an astounding 56 victories as they were led by Barrie who ran away with the WHL scoring title with 185 points, finishing 22 points ahead of Glen Goodall. Barrie’s 85 goals that season stand as a franchise record. The addition of Chyzowski late in the season bolstered the roster for the playoffs. The hockey club cruised through the playoffs winning the WHL Championship and making their third Memorial Cup appearance in the past seven years. It was another unsuccessful Memorial Cup as the hockey club dropped their first two games in overtime and lost their third game 4-2 to the Laval Titan. The Blazers won 33 of 36 home games which is a WHL record tying Seattle (1989-90) and Swift Current (1988-89).
Team Record: 56-16-0, 1st West
Playoffs: Won League Championship (4 games to 1 vs. Lethbridge)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Len Barrie – 85 Goals, 100 Assists, 185 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Len Barrie – 37 Points
Notable Players: Dave Chyzowski, Mike Needham, Zac Boyer, Darryl Sydor, Paul Kruse, Corey Hirsch, Len Barrie, Scott Niedermayer, Trevor Sim, Dean Malkoc
1990-91 – A New Man Behind the Bench
The 1990-91 edition of the Kamloops Blazers had a much different look then previous years. Ken Hitchcock had left the team after six seasons behind the Blazers bench for the NHL. The renowned coach was an Assistant Coach with Philadelphia for three years, before becoming the Head Coach of the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although Hitchcock never won a Memorial Cup, he won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. Tom Renney was the new Head Coach, and he assured that he would lead the Blazers to a Memorial Cup Championship. It was another successful season on the ice, as the Blazers won 50 games for the second consecutive year. The Blazers won the West Division for the seventh time in eight years finishing slightly ahead of the Spokane Chiefs. After ousting the Tri-City Americans five games to two, the Blazers faced the Chiefs in the conference final. The Chiefs swept the Blazers in the conference final and went on to win the Memorial Cup. The Blazers were returning a strong crew of vetereans including Scott Niedermayer, Darryl Sydor, Zac Boyer and goaltender Corey Hirsch going into the 1991-92 season.
Team Record: 50-20-1, 1st West
Playoffs: Lost Conference Final (5 games to 0 vs. Spokane)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Cal McGowan – 58 Goals, 81 Assists, 139 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Darryl Sydor – 25 Points
Notable Players: Zac Boyer, Darryl Sydor, Corey Hirsch, Scott Niedermayer, Dean Malkoc, Ed Patterson, Jarrett Deuling, Tyson Nash, Scott Ferguson
1991-92 – Memorial Cup Champions
Everything fell into place for a strong Kamloops Blazers squad. The New Jersey Devils returned defenseman Scott Niedermayer in November, and defenseman Darryl Sydor was sent back to the Blazers in January from the Los Angeles Kings. A midseason match up with the Prince Albert Raiders was a defining moment in the season for the Blazers. The team was down 5-0 heading into the third period against the Raiders, the #1 ranked team in the CHL. A tremendous team effort spurred a third period comeback as the Blazers defeated the Raiders 6-5 in overtime. The Blazers again cruised through the playoffs defeating Tacoma and Seattle to set up a series against the Saskatoon Blades. The Blades pushed the series to seven games, but a convincing 8-0 victory in the last game the Blazers ever played at Memorial Arena earned the hockey club a Memorial Cup birth for the fourth time in nine seasons. Zac Boyer was the hero scoring with 14.6 seconds left to give the Blazers a 5-4 victory of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Hirsch, Niedermayer and Mike Mathers were named Memorial Cup all-stars. Finally, the Kamloops Blazers had earned their first Memorial Cup.
Team Record: 51-17-4, 1st West
Playoffs: Won League Championship (4 games to 3 vs. Saskatoon) Won Memorial Cup
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Zac Boyer – 40 Goals, 69 Assists, 109 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Zac Boyer – 29 Points
Notable Players: Zac Boyer, Darryl Sydor, Corey Hirsch, Scott Niedermayer, Ed Patterson, Jarrett Deuling, Tyson Nash, Scott Ferguson, David Wilkie, Darcy Tucker, Ryan Huska, Chris Murray
1992-93 – Could There Be a Repeat
Despite losing key players in Zac Boyer, Darryl Sydor, Corey Hirsch and Scott Niedermayer, the hockey club still managed to win 40+ games for the tenth time in the last eleven seasons. After two seasons at the helm, Tom Renney moved on and long-time Assistant Coach and Kamloops native, Don Hay was named the team’s Head Coach. Riverside Coliseum was open to a capacity crowd that witnessed the Memorial Cup banner raising ceremony. It was still an above average year for the Blazers. The team finished in 3rd place in the division which led to a first round match up with the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Blazers handled the Thunderbirds with ease winning the best-of-seven series 4 games to 1, then took at the Spokane Chiefs in a best-of-five series 3 games to 0. The Blazers faced the Portland Winter Hawks in the Conference final and were over matched as the Winter Hawks cruised to a 4 games to 1 series win. Despite the exit from the playoffs, the Blazers were expected to return many key players.
Team Record: 42-28-2, 3rd West
Playoffs: Lost Conference Final (4 games to 1 vs. Portland)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Mike Mathers – 52 Goals, 56 Assists, 108 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Mike Mathers – 17 Points
Notable Players: Jarrett Deuling, Tyson Nash, Scott Ferguson, David Wilkie, Darcy Tucker, Ryan Huska, Chris Murray, Hnat Domenichelli, Shane Doan, Nolan Baumgartner, Steve Passmore, Brad Lukowich, Jason Holland
1993-94 – Were the Blazers For Real
The Blazers were off to a slow start in this campaign, sitting around .500 in mid-November. The first place Portland Winter Hawks came to town, sitting 15 points ahead of the Blazers, and were crushed 9-0. This was the start of what would be a memorable season. The Blazers were also given tremendous news that they would be the host city of the 1995 Memorial Cup. A WHL record was set by the Blazers as they won 29 straight home games from November 13th until March 12th. They stretched that record to 33 games, winning their first four home games of the 1994-95 season. The Blazers went on to win the West Division for the ninth time in eleven years and the Scotty Munro trophy for the sixth time in ten years. The Blazers ousted the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Portland Winter Hawks 4 games to 2 to set up a league final with the Saskatoon Blades. The Blades forced a game seven, but the Blazers repeated what they did in 1992 as they throttled the Blades 8-1 in the deciding game. In the Memorial Cup, the Blazers finished with a perfect 3-0 record and earned a bye to the final. The hockey club won 5-3 over the host Laval Titan for their second Memorial Cup championship in three years. Darcy Tucker was the tournament MVP and joined Aaron Keller, Nolan Baumgartner and Rod Stevens on the tournament all-star team. With the Blazers hosting the Memorial Cup in 1995, a dynasty was already being discussed.
Team Record: 50-16-6, 1st West
Playoffs: Won League Championship (4 games to 3 vs. Saskatoon) Won Memorial Cup
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Darcy Tucker – 52 Goals, 88 Assists, 140 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Darcy Tucker – 27 Points
Notable Players: Jarrett Deuling, Tyson Nash, Scott Ferguson, David Wilkie, Darcy Tucker, Ryan Huska, Chris Murray, Hnat Domenichelli, Shane Doan, Nolan Baumgartner, Steve Passmore, Brad Lukowich, Jason Holland, Jarome Iginla, Jason Strudwick, Cam Severson
1994-95 – A Junior Hockey Dynasty
The 1994-95 Kamloops Blazers is arguably one of the best junior hockey teams ever assembled. The Blazers were ranked the #1 team in the CHL from the beginning of the season to the end and were hosting the Memorial Cup. A terrific regular season led to another 50+ win campaign as the team won its tenth west division title in twelve seasons and their seventh Scotty Munro trophy, as the WHL’s top team, in eleven seasons. Darcy Tucker finished second in WHL scoring with 137 points. Following the round robin portion of the playoffs, the Blazers pushed aside Portland with a 4 games to 1 series victory and then ousted Tri-City 4 games to 2. This set up a WHL final with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Blazers and Wheat Kings were both secured spots in the Memorial Cup, but the Blazers wanted to go in as WHL champions. Despite losing the first two games of the series at home, the Blazers went to Brandon and won all three games. They closed out the Wheat Kings, at home, in six games for their sixth WHL championship. The Blazers went 3-0 in the round robin earning a bye to the Memorial Cup final. It was a convincing victory as the Blazers demolished the Detroit Jr. Red Wings 8-2. Shane Doan was the Memorial Cup MVP, while Jarome Iginla was the Most Sportsmanlike player. Doan, Darcy Tucker and Nolan Baumgartner were all honoured as Memorial Cup all-stars. It was a season that will be remembered by Blazer fans for many years to come.
Team Record: 52-14-6, 1st West
Playoffs: Won League Championship (4 games to 2 vs. Brandon) Won Memorial Cup
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Darcy Tucker – 64 Goals, 73 Assists, 137 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Darcy Tucker – 31 Points
Notable Players: Tyson Nash, Darcy Tucker, Ryan Huska, Hnat Domenichelli, Shane Doan, Nolan Baumgartner, Brad Lukowich, Jason Holland, Jarome Iginla, Jason Strudwick, Cam Severson, Rob Skrlac
1995-96 – A Different Direction
There were many changes with the Kamloops Blazers following an unprecedented three Memorial Cup championships in four seasons. Don Hay moved on to coach with the Calgary Flames, and Darcy Tucker, Tyson Nash, Shane Doan, and Jason Strudwick all went on to NHL careers. The biggest and most puzzling surprise was the departure of General Manager, Bob Brown. Brown had been the GM of the Blazers for ten seasons, and led the team to five Memorial Cup appearances during that span. The Tri-City Americans hired him as their GM shortly after his departure. Ed Dempsey took over as the team’s Head Coach and long-time scout Stu MacGregor was the new GM. The Blazers had another terrific season on the ice as they finished 2nd in the West Division behind the Spokane Chiefs. Hnat Domenichelli and Jarome Iginla finished 3rd and 4th in the WHL scoring race. The Blazers went on to beat Seattle and Tri-City in the first two rounds of the playoffs to appear in their 10th straight conference final. The Blazers put up a good fight, but came up short falling to Spokane 4 games to 2. The hockey club was losing many top players such as Domenichelli, Iginla, Nolan Baumgartner, Jason Holland and Brad Lukowich all to the pro ranks. The 1996-97 season would test the Blazers depth.
Team Record: 48-22-2, 2nd West
Playoffs: Lost Conference Final (4 games to 2 vs. Spokane)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Hnat Domenichelli – 59 Goals, 89 Assists, 148 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Jarome Iginla – 29 Points
Notable Players: Hnat Domenichelli, Nolan Baumgartner, Brad Lukowich, Jason Holland, Jarome Iginla, Steve Gainey, Rob Skrlac, Ajay Baines, Donnie Kinney, Aaron Keller
1996-97 – A True Test
The Blazers suffered their first sub .500 season since the team’s move to Kamloops in 1981-82. The personnel losses were too significant for the Blazers to replace. At the same time, it is part of the cycle of junior hockey. The Blazers were able to reload instead of rebuild earlier in the decade; but, improved scouting and the WHL Bantam Draft made it difficult for one team to continuously stay at the top. The Blazers finished the season in fifth place out of six teams in the west division. They met the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round, and Patrick Marleau led the T-Birds to a 4 games to 1 series victory. It was unfamiliar territory for the Blazers, but there were many promising signs throughout the season. The Blazers regularly dressed eleven 16 and 17-year-old players. They were led by 18-year-old captain and Kamloops native Ajay Baines. Despite the sub-par season, the Blazers were poised for a return to the hockey clubs winning ways.
Team Record: 28-37-7, 5th West
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 1 vs. Seattle)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Donnie Kinney – 44 Goals, 45 Assists, 89 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Ajay Baines – 5 Points
Notable Players: Steve Gainey, Rob Skrlac, Micki Dupont, Robyn Regehr, Ajay Baines, Donnie Kinney
1997-98 – Changes and Improvements
The Blazers made a change behind the bench prior to the start of the season as Ed Dempsey was let go and resurfaced in Prince George. His replacement was Marc Habscheid, who had a short stint as a Jr. Oiler, played only 6 games and recorded 23 points in 1982-83. There was a ton of player movement early in the season after the Blazers were off to a poor start to the season. In the second half of the season, the team continued to improve and finished 4th in the West Division. The Blazers improved on the 1996-97 season with 9 more wins and 14 points in the standings. Their first round opponents were Ed Dempsey’s favoured Prince George Cougars, who finished 14 points ahead of the Blazers. It was a hard fought series that went to seven games. In the deciding game, the Blazers outshot and outplayed the Cougars, but fell 2-1. The optimism and excitement was back. Despite losing to the Cougars, the Blazers were returning many of their key players. They had learned from Head Coach, Marc Habscheid and were prepared to take their game to another level in 1998-99.
Team Record: 37-32-3, 4th West
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 3 vs. Prince George)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Donnie Kinney – 28 Goals, 33 Assists, 61 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Steve Gainey – 8 Points
Notable Players: Steve Gainey, Steve Shrum, Micki Dupont, Robyn Regehr, Ajay Baines, Donnie Kinney, Mike Brown, Alan Manness
1998-99 – Back to the Finals
As the Blazers returned most of their team from 1997-98 the biggest question mark was goaltending. The hockey club brought in 19-year-old Kenric Exner who served as a backup with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins the previous season. The Blazers were on a tear as they set a new franchise record going 6-0-0 on an eastern road swing and ran their unbeaten streak to an astounding 26 straight games which stands as a franchise record. The team started to load up as they were near the top of the WHL standings and knew they had a chance at another Memorial Cup. Kyle Calder, Ty Jones, Kyle Kos and Jordan Flodell were all acquired to help the Blazers push to the league championship. Goaltender Kenric Exner led the WHL with a 2.31 goals against average, a .912 save percentage and a 34-6-0-8 record. The Blazers finished the year with only 11 losses, the fewest in franchise history. In the playoffs, the Blazers took down Kelowna in six games, and then swept Don Hay’s Tri-City Americans to face the Calgary Hitmen in the league final. Former Kamloops Jr. Oiler, Dean Clark, had led the Hitmen to a 51-win season in the team’s fourth season in the WHL. The Blazers won the first game, but were defeated in 5 games by the Hitmen. The hockey club was losing many key players to graduation and the pro ranks, but a solid young crop of rookies, led by Jared Aulin, would keep the Blazers in a favourable position.
Team Record: 48-11-13, 1st West
Playoffs: Lost League Final (4 games to 1 vs. Calgary)
Leading Regular Season Scorer:
Kyle Calder – 42 Goals, 46 Assists, 88 Points (Acquired part way through season)
Steve Shrum – 28 Goals, 40 Assists, 68 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Kyle Calder – 16 Points
Notable Players: Steve Gainey, Steve Shrum, Micki Dupont, Robyn Regehr, Ajay Baines, Donnie Kinney, Mike Brown, Kyle Calder, Konstantin Panov, Jared Aulin, Jonathan Hobson, Kenric Exner
1999-00 – A New Beginning
There was another change behind the Kamloops Blazers bench. Marc Habscheid could not reach and agreement with General Manager Mike Moore and the rest of the Blazers brass. The hockey club hired former Jr. Oiler, Dean Evason as their new Head Coach. The young Blazers had lost Kyle Calder, Steve Gainey, Robyn Regehr, Ajay Baines and Kenric Exner all to the pro ranks. Despite the personnel losses, the Blazers finished the season above .500 and finished in a respectable 4th place, only 2 points behind the Blazers first round playoff opponent, Seattle Thunderbirds. Defenseman Micki Dupont was the team’s leading scorer, the first time a defenseman had ever led the Blazers in scoring. Dupont was also named the WHL and CHL defenseman of the year. In the playoffs, the Blazers outshot the Seattle Thunderbirds in all four playoff games, but were defeated in four straight games. The Blazers would be returning many players including promising rookies Erik Christensen and Shaone Morrisonn. The team was only expected to be better as the new century began.
Team Record: 36-31-5-1, 4th West
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 0 vs. Seattle)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Micki Dupont – 26 Goals, 62 Assists, 88 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Jonathan Hobson – 4 Points
Notable Players: Steve Shrum, Micki Dupont, Erik Christensen, Shaone Morrisonn, Brett Draney, Konstantin Panov, Jared Aulin, Jonathan Hobson
2000-01 – Improvement and Disappointment
The Blazers went into the 2000-01 season returning many of their young talented players. CHL Defenseman of the Year, Micki Dupont along with veteran forward Steve Shrum were the Blazers key losses. The emergence of 17-year-old rookie Scottie Upshall was the team’s biggest surprise. The undrafted, gritty forward came out of nowhere and scored 42 goals, 45 assists and 87 points while picking up 111 minutes in penalties. Upshall was honoured as the first Blazer to be named the CHL Rookie of the Year. The hockey club realized they had a young team, and decided to get even younger after a blockbuster trade with the Regina Pats. The Pats were hosting the 2001 Memorial Cup and loaded up by acquiring defenseman Paul Elliott, team captain Gable Gross, and Kyle Ladorbruk from the Blazers. In return, the Blazers acquired Ryan Annesley and 16-year-old highly touted forward Paul Brown. The Blazers remained in the hunt for the division title throughout the second half of the season, but ended up finishing tied with the Spokane Chiefs for 3rd place, 7 points behind the 1st place Kelowna Rockets. The Blazers faced off with the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs holding home ice advantage after going 3-2-1-0 in the season series. The Chiefs dominated the playoff series winning in four straight games and outscored the Blazers 20-5. It was a disappointing outcome, but the hockey club was returning almost all of their core players. There were high expectations for the 2001-02 season.
Team Record: 35-28-7-2, 3rd West
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 0 vs. Spokane)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Jared Aulin – 31 Goals, 77 Assists, 108 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Jared Aulin, Scottie Upshall, Jonathan Hobson, Erik Christensen, Ryan Annesley – 2 Points
Notable Players: Erik Christensen, Shaone Morrisonn, Konstantin Panov, Jared Aulin, Jonathan Hobson, Scottie Upshall, Tyler Sloan, Paul Brown , Colton Orr
2001-02 – A Division Championship
There were changes in the conference as the Vancouver Giants started their inaugural season, and the Kootenay Ice shifted conferences into the newly created B.C. Division and the Western Conference. The season started with a bang as the Blazers won seven of their first eight games for a comfortable division lead. Overall, the Blazers had a very good season on the ice as head coach Dean Evason led the team to a 38-win season and first place in the Western Conference. The Blazers still stumbled to the finish line as they lost five of their last six games to finish the season. The Blazers were up against the Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets won the season series with a 5-3-2 record. It was another disappointing showing by the Blazers in the playoffs. They were taken out in four straight games and only managed to score four goals in the entire series. The hockey club had five players selected in the NHL Entry Draft. This included Scottie Upshall being taken sixth overall by the Nashville Predators, the highest Blazer selected since Scott Niedermayer went third overall in 1991. Losing out in the first round of the playoffs, and not winning a playoff game for the third consecutive year was frustrating for the Blazers. They had had strong regular seasons, but struggled to translate that success into the playoffs. The result was frustration and change.
Team Record: 38-25-5-4, 1st West
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 0 vs. Kelowna)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Scottie Upshall – 32 Goals, 51 Assists, 83 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Scottie Upshall, Jared Aulin – 3 Points
Notable Players: Erik Christensen, Shaone Morrisonn, Jared Aulin, Scottie Upshall, Tyler Sloan, Paul Brown, Jarret Lukin, Nikita Korovkin
2002-03 – Looking for Better Results
With unexpected results in the playoffs, Dean Evason and his coaching staff were dismissed after three years behind the Blazers bench. GM, Mike Moore decided to bring in Troy Mick as the team’s new Head Coach, and former Jr. Oiler Mark Ferner was brought in as an Assistant Coach. The Blazers were still expected to be competitive in the B.C. Division despite the losses of Jared Aulin, Ben Knopp and Shaone Morrisonn. Import forward Jonas Johansson led the league in scoring with 35 points in 26 games before a season ending ankle injury. The hockey club were sitting around .500 by the end of January. The Blazers seemed to hit their stride in February as they finished the last two months of the season with a 15-6-0-0 record heading into the playoffs. The strong finish pushed the Blazers one point ahead of the defending Memorial Cup champion Kootenay Ice for second place in the B.C. division. This also set up a memorable first round series. On the verge of the playoffs, Troy Mick had to step aside for medical reasons, which meant Mark Ferner had to take the coaching reigns. The six game series was an absolute war. Kootenay took the first game in overtime, while the Blazers tied the series winning game two 1-0. The Ice took a 3-1 series lead winning in double overtime and 4-1 in game four. In game five, the Blazers were down 5-3 going into the third period after allowing four second period goals. The Blazers mounted a comeback as they came back to beat the Ice 7-6 in a memorable third period. In game six, the Ice won once again in overtime for their third time in the series. Despite the outcome, the Blazers knew they put up a strong playoff performance. There were many positives as Erik Christensen led the WHL in scoring and 16-year-old goaltender Devan Dubnyk showed signs of becoming an elite goaltender.
Team Record: 39-27-5-1, 2nd B.C. Division
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 2 vs. Kootenay)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Erik Christensen – 54 Goals, 54 Assists, 108 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Erik Christensen – 8 Points
Notable Players: Erik Christensen, Jarret Lukin, Scottie Upshall, Jonas Johansson, Bryce Lampman, Devan Dubnyk
2003-04 – Can’t Catch a Break
A season of promise turned into turmoil off the ice before the season started. A money embezzlement scandal broke out in which an employee had been stealing from the hockey club for many years. On the ice, Troy Mick was forced to step down due to medical reasons, and the hockey club brought in former Jr. Oiler Dean Clark. Clark had been the Head Coach of the Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings, and had brought with him a resume of coaching success. The Blazers were in a tight B.C. Division and were riding two 17-year-old goaltenders in Devan Dubnyk and Dustin Slade. By Christmas, the Blazers had not been achieving their expectations. A blockbuster trade with the Brandon Wheat Kings was made shortly after Christmas. The Blazers sent WHL scoring champion Erik Christensen, defenseman Tyler Boldt and goaltender Dustin Slade to the Wheat Kings in exchange for Rick Kozak, Geoff McIntosh, Derek Werenka, and Josh Garbutt. Shortly after the trade, the Blazers General Manager, Mike Moore stepped down from his position. Clark was thrust into the dual role of General Manager and Head Coach for the remainder of the season. The Blazers finished the season strong winning three of their final four games and were up against the Vancouver Giants in the first round of the playoffs. The Giants finished three points ahead of the Blazers in the standings. The Blazers gained home ice advantage splitting the first two games in Vancouver. The Giants, who were coached by former Blazers bench boss Dean Evason, went into Kamloops and won games three and four. The Blazers looked like they were on their way to winning game five in Vancouver with a 4-1 lead going into the third period. The Blazers surrendered three third period goals and fell in overtime to the Giants. It was playoff heartbreak for the hockey club.
Team Record: 34-28-8-2, 3rd B.C. Division
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 1 vs. Vancouver)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Grant Jacobsen – 18 Goals, 34 Assists, 52 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Jarret Lukin, Jonas Johansson – 8 Points
Notable Players: Jonas Johansson, Erik Christensen, Ray Macias, Devan Dubnyk, Kris Hogg, Cam Cunning
2004-05 – Oh So Close
The Blazers were slow out of the gate as they dropped their first five of six games. Dean Clark, the Blazers GM and Head Coach stepped down after leading the team to a 7-12-1-0 record to start the season. The Blazers had struggled to create offence being shutout in six of the team’s twelve losses. Mark Ferner stepped behind the Blazers bench, and things didn’t seem to improve. It was the year of the shutouts as Devan Dubnyk saw action in 65 games and finished with six shutouts. The Blazers scored only 161 goals on the season and were shutout thirteen times. The hockey club only won 26 games which was the least since the franchises inaugural season in 1981-82. Despite the negatives, the club still managed to qualify for the playoffs, and were heavy underdogs against the WHL’s top team, the Kootenay Ice. The Ice finished 43 points ahead of the Blazers in the standings. In game one, the Blazers were down 3-0 going into the third period. Somehow, the Blazers stormed back with three third period goals and sent the game to overtime. Terrance Delaronde was the hero scoring 16 seconds into overtime and the Blazers shocked the Ice winning game one. In game two, the Blazers again forced overtime but fell 3-2. With home ice advantage gained, the Blazers showed the home crowd they were for real as Kevin Hayman scored with 1:03 to play to give the Blazers a 2-1 series lead. The Blazers were on the cusp of taking a 3-1 series lead, but the Ice scored a late goal to tie the game and won in overtime to tie the series at 2-2. It was heartbreak as the Ice seemed to regain the advantage and went on to win the series 4-2. It was a positive way to finish the year, which the hockey club needed to build on.
Team Record: 26-37-7-2, 4th West
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 2 vs. Kootenay)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Ray Macias – 12 Goals, 35 Assists, 47 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Roman Teslyuk – 5 Points
Notable Players: Ray Macias, Devan Dubnyk, Reid Jorgensen, Matt Kassian, Keaton Ellerby, Brock Nixon
2005-06 – Wanting More
The Blazers were striving to score more goals and be a better team from the season prior. To do so, Kris Versteeg was acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in order to add some offensive punch. Versteeg had a great start with the hockey club scoring three goals in his first game. After a hot start out of the gate, the Blazers again struggled to score goals. Versteeg and defenseman Brennan Chapman were dealt to Red Deer in exchange for forward Ashton Rome. A change behind the bench was made in early December. Dean Clark stepped back behind the bench and Mark Ferner had been let go. The change did not seem to improve much, as the Blazers continued playing .500 hockey in a tight B.C. Division. On March 15th, the Blazers were eliminated from the WHL playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Blazers were far from their worst season on the ice as they finished ahead of eight other teams, including three teams in the U.S. Division. It was a disappointing season all around on the ice. At the same time, the team improved their record in the regular season. This team was destined for a good year on the ice.
Team Record: 34-33-2-3, 5th B.C. Division
Playoffs: Missed Playoffs
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Ashton Rome – 19 Goals, 28 Assists, 47 Points
Notable Players: Ashton Rome, Brock Nixon, T.J. Mulock, Kris Versteeg, Keaton Ellerby, Matt Kassian, Devan Dubnyk
2006-07 – A Total Shock
The 2006-07 season was expected to be an improvement. The hockey club started slow losing four of their first five games to start the season. The Blazers acquired Dustin Butler from the Portland Winter Hawks and the addition seemed to turn the Blazers around. The Blazers went on to win thirteen of their next fifteen contests. By Christmas, the hockey club was in a battle with the Vancouver Giants for the division title. The Giants, who hosted and won the Memorial Cup in 2007, were beaten by the Blazers six times in eight games during the 2006-07 season. The hockey club tailed off to finish the year and lost their last six games of the season. The positives were the Blazers won 40-games for the first time since the 1998-99 season and had four players score 30+ goals. Goaltender Dustin Butler finished with a franchise record seven shutouts on the season. Defenseman Ray Macias was a first team all-star after leading all WHL defensemen in scoring with 30 goals, 40 assists and 70 points. The Blazers lost Macias to a broken wrist in the 70th game of the regular season. The underachieving Prince George Cougars were the Blazers first round opponent in the playoffs. Remarkably, the Blazers lost the series in four straight games. The Blazers lost all four games by only one goal, including three games in overtime. Cougars forward Devin Setoguchi scored five goals in the series, including the winning goal in three of the four games. It was devastating for the hockey club. A season with so many positives ended negatively.
Team Record: 40-26-4-2, 2nd B.C. Division
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 0 vs. Prince George)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Brock Nixon – 35 Goals, 44 Assists, 79 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: C.J. Stretch – 8 Points
Notable Players: Reid Jorgensen, Brock Nixon, Keaton Ellerby, Jusso Puustinen, Ray Macias, Matt Kassian, Ryan Bender
2007-08 – A Change of the Guard
Following a 40-win regular season and being swept in the playoffs, change was in effect during the 2007-08 season. Successful businessman Tom Gaglardi, along with four ex-Blazers, Mark Recchi, Darryl Sydor, Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla purchased the Kamloops Blazers. The rebuilding began as the Blazers GM and Head Coach Dean Clark was shown the door after sixteen games and in came ex-Blazers star Greg Hawgood as the team’s new Head Coach. The Blazers initially started off well once the change was made, but slowly crumbled. The team lost fifteen of their last sixteen games as they limped into the playoffs as the eighth seed. The Blazers had the impossible task of the Tri-City Americans in the first round of the playoffs. The Americans finished 50-points ahead of the Blazers in the WHL standings. The Blazers were no where close to the Americans in the first two games losing by a combined score of 10-2. In game three, the Blazers held a 3-1 advantage heading into the third period. The Americans answered with three third period goals to win the game 4-3. The Blazers hopes were crushed as they fell 6-2 in game four to go out in four straight games. Next year meant more change as the ownership group put their stamp on the hockey club.
Team Record: 27-41-2-2, 4th B.C. Division
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 0 vs. Tri-City)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Jusso Puustinen – 27 Goals, 26 Assists, 53 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Seven Players – 2 Points
Notable Players: Tyler Shattock, Kenton Dulle, Brady Calla, Jusso Puustinen, Nick Ross, C.J. Stretch, Scott Wasden
2008-09 – Retooling and Rebuilding
The new Blazers ownership group put their stamp on the team. Former Blazer captain and Memorial Cup champion, Craig Bonner was hired as the team’s General Manager. He had won a Memorial Cup with the Vancouver Giants in 2007 and as a player with the Kamloops Blazers in 1992. The team also hired veteran Barry Smith as the team’s new Head Coach. The expectations for the hockey club were virtually unknown. It was obvious the Blazers were going through a complete makeover. The hockey club started the season slow winning only four of their first fourteen games. The team came around though and finished the season at .500 and in sixth place in the conference. C.J. Stretch, Tyler Shattock, Jimmy Bubnick and Shayne Wiebe all had breakout seasons scoring 25+ goals and contributing with 55+ points. Shattock and Bubnick were both selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The Blazers were major underdogs against the Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. The hockey club lost game one and two in Kelowna 4-2 and 5-1. In game three the Blazers found themselves with a 2-0 lead midway through the third period. Somehow, the Rockets responded scoring with 5:55 to play and then the gut wrenching goal with only three seconds left on the clock. The Rockets went on to win in overtime and won game four 5-3 to devastate the Blazers once again. The focus turned to next year knowing most of the roster was set to return.
Team Record: 33-33-2-4, 3rd B.C. Division
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 0 vs. Kelowna)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: C.J. Stretch – 29 Goals, 57 Assists, 86 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: Kenton Dulle – 5 Points
Notable Players: Tyler Shattock, Kenton Dulle, Shayne Wiebe, C.J. Stretch, Scott Wasden, Jimmy Bubnick
2009-10 – Building for the Future
It was an exciting year for the Blazers as they were returning six of there top seven scorers, including four 25+ goal scorers. The hockey club felt like they could make a leap forward this season. The year started off great as the Blazers had a 7-1-2-0. The team hit a road block when they fell by a 12-5 score on home ice Thanksgiving Monday. From there, the Blazers headed out on their Eastern Division road trip and it was a disaster. The team won their first game, but ended up losing there next five games. At this point, the Blazers had been outshot and outplayed in almost every game. The GM, Craig Bonner felt a change was needed and dismissed Head Coach, Barry Smith. Assistant Coach Scott Ferguson was given the reigns on an interim basis until veteran NHL coach Guy Charron took over as the team’s Head Coach in mid-November. By the trade deadline the Blazers had sold most of their assets. The team traded away veterans Tyler Shattock, Zak Stebner, Jimmy Bubnick, Giffen Nyren and Shayne Wiebe. In return the Blazers acquired 18-year-old Chase Schaber and a pair of 17-year-olds in Jordan DePape and Austin Madaisky. Despite the moves, the Blazers had a strong second half of the season as Brendan Ranford proved to be a scoring threat while DePape, Schaber and Madaisky all excelled in Blazer colours. The agony of the playoffs continued against the Vancouver Giants in the first round. In game one the Blazers held a 3-1 advantage before the Giants tied it up to send the game to overtime. The Giants won it 33 seconds into overtime and cruised in game two for a 2-0 series lead heading to Kamloops. In game three, the Blazers again held a 4-3 third period lead, but the Giants tied it up and won in overtime. It was the same story in game four as the Blazers led 4-3 in the third period, but the Giants scored two goals in the final ten minutes for a 5-4 victory and a sweep of the series. The Blazers competed with their young team and were looking to take strides in 2010-11.
Team Record: 32-33-2-5, 3rd B.C. Division
Playoffs: Lost First Round (4 games to 0 vs. Vancouver)
Leading Regular Season Scorer: C.J. Stretch – 30 Goals, 51 Assists, 81 Points
Leading Playoff Scorer: C.J. Stretch – 7 Points
Notable Players: C.J. Stretch, Brendan Ranford, Ryan Funk, Kurtis Mucha, Bronson Maschmeyer
2010-11 – The Hard Road to Success
The Blazers were now finally starting to take shape under the new regime. The expectations had risen, and the Blazers were in a tough B.C. Division race. As the season progressed, Brendan Ranford excelled and led the way at a goal a game pace while leading the WHL in scoring in the first half of the season. At the same time, the consistency of committing to discipline and defence lacked. The first half of the season was inconsistent which led to a .500 record and the Blazers brass wanting more. Injuries and discipline seemed to cost the Blazers in the second half. Brendan Ranford slowed to a halt. Injuries to Chase Schaber, Austin Madaisky, Josh Caron and Jordan DePape slowed their production. The Blazers best players, Schaber, DePape and Ranford all were suspended on different occasions throughout the season. Some of the positives included the Blazers blistering the Central Division going 8-1-1-0 on the road. Ranford proved himself as potentially one of the top scoring threats in the WHL. The team also pulled off one of the best comebacks in Blazers history in Medicine Hat. The Blazers found themselves trailing 5-1 in the final ten minutes of the third period. Two goals by Colin Smith and two more goals by Dylan Willick in the final minute sent the game to overtime. The Blazers pulled off the comeback with a 6-5 shootout win with Smith tallying the shootout winner. The finish to the season is not something the hockey club wants to remember. The Blazers went 0-6-0-2 to narrowly miss the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.
Team Record: 29-37-3-3, 5th B.C. Division
Playoffs: Missed Playoffs
Leading Regular Season Scorer: Brendan Ranford – 33 Goals, 53 Assists, 86 Points
Notable Players: Thomas Frazee, Brendan Ranford, Corey Fienhage, Dalibor Bortnak, Chase Schaber, Dylan Willick, Jordan DePape, Colin Smith