1995 – Kamloops Blazers
When the 1995 Memorial Cup tournament opened in Kamloops’ Riverside Coliseum, the host Blazers were looking for their third championship in four years.
They had won at least 40 games in seven straight WHL regular seasons, had been in 12 straight West Division finals, had appeared in seven WHL finals in 12 seasons, and had won six championships.
The 1995 tournament also featured the Brandon Wheat Kings, the WHL’s runner-up, Detroit Jr. Red Wings and Hull Olympiques.
The 1994-95 edition of the Blazers, under general manager Bob Brown and head coach Don Hay, thrilled the hometown fans on May 21, unleashing a 50-shot barrage in an 8-2 victory over Detroit to win that third Memorial Cup.
The Blazers became the seventh team to win back-to-back titles, but the only one to win three in four years.
Ryan Huska, with two, Tyson Nash and Darcy Tucker, all of whom played on all three championship teams, scored in the victory over Detroit.
“Everyone knew it was our third,” Tucker said. “We just relished the moment.”
The Blazers had ridden goaltender Rod Branch, 19, through the regular season and into the playoffs. But he was replaced during the playoff run by Randy Petruk, who was in his 16-year-old season.
Petruk went the distance from there, and was 4-0 in the Memorial Cup. He stopped 25 shots in the final.
Yes, the Blazers ran the table in this tournament.
They opened by scoring three power-play goals in a 4-1 victory over the Olympiques on May 14, then beat the Red Wings, 5-4, on May 16, and clinched a spot in the final on May 19 by beating Brandon, 6-4, as Tucker drew three assists.
The Wheat Kings had opened with a 9-2 thrashing of Hull, then dropped a 4-3 decision to Detroit, while the Red Wings had beaten the Olympiques, 5-2.
It all added up to Hull (0-3) being eliminated with the other two moving into a semifinal.
On May 20, the Wheat Kings took a 1-0 lead into the third period but couldn’t hold it as they lost 2-1 when Hull got goals from Milan Kostolny at 6:54 and Matt Ball at 14:50.
Attendance for every one of the tournament’s eight games was announced as 5,500, providing a total attendance of 44,000.
The championship game was refereed by veteran WHL official Kevin Muench of Moose Jaw. He later announced his retirement, 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, Blazers 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.
1995 Kamloops Blazers:
Jeff Ainsworth, Jeff Antonovich, Nolan Baumgartner, Rod Branch, Ashley Buckberger, Shane Doan, Hnat Domenichelli, Greg Hart, Ryan Huska, Jason Holland, Jarome Iginla, Aaron Keller, Donnie Kinney, Brad Lukowich, Bob Maudie, Keith McCambridge, Shawn McNeil, Tyson Nash, Jeff Oldenborger, Randy Petruk, Jason Strudwick, Darcy Tucker, Ivan Vologjaninov, Bob Westerby, Bob Brown (general manager), Don Hay (coach).
NHL: Doan played 21 NHL seasons spent entirely with the Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix Coyotes franchise. Iginla played 20 NHL seasons spent largely with the Calgary Flames, winning the Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award in 2002 while being a seven-time NHL All-Star. Lukowich won Stanley Cups with the 1999 Dallas Stars and the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning. Tucker enjoyed a 13-year NHL career spent largely with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Strudwick played 12 NHL seasons between 1996 and 2011.