The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is widely considered one of the best Tier II junior leagues in Canada. In 1972, the SJHL saw fit to add another team to the league and announced that the Prince Albert Raiders would join, playing out of the city-owned Art Hauser Centre. With the Raiders added to the league, there were now eleven teams, which did cause some issues with scheduling. Some teams played more games than others, but as the years progressed, more teams joined the league.
The first Raiders club was an absolute powerhouse during the regular season, winning 33 of 48 games, far more than expected by most. However, come playoff time, they somehow couldn’t find the power they wielded during the season, falling flat on their face in the first round. In 1972-73, the same result followed — domination of the North Division but they were still not able to solve the playoff conundrum.
Tom Brown took over the captaincy from Ray Bansley for the 1973-74 SJHL season. To go along with the changing of the leadership guard, the team’s playoff fortunes took a drastic turn for the better. The Estevan Bruins had finished the season in first place across the league, thanks in large part to the team’s ability to keep the puck out of its own net. The Bruins only allowed 150 goals while scoring 233 goals themselves. Their heavy defensive style had them favoured to win it all. Make it to the finals the Bruins did, but they were met by the powerful Prince Albert Raiders who had shed the ghosts of past years’ playoff failures. The Raiders took their first junior championship. They then made it again to the finals the following season but fell short in becoming repeat champions to the Swift Current Broncos.
The next seven years, an unrivaled dynasty began, with seven straight Hanbridge Cup championships to celebrate. The first to fall were the Weyburn Red Wings who had dispatched the Regina Blues in the quarterfinals and defeated the Melville Millionaires, who were led by three of the league’s top five goal scorers, in the semifinals. Overcoming those odds, they must’ve still had some confidence going into the finals against the Raiders who eliminated the Battleford Barons and Swift Current Broncos in eight games total. Unfortunately for the Red Wings faithful, they were out on their ear as well after four games. Nothing and nobody would get in between Garth Green and the Raiders.
From 1978 to 1981, players from the Moose Jaw Canucks must’ve had nightmares at the mere mentioning of the name Raiders. Four straight seasons of making it to the Hanbridge Cup Finals, four straight years finishing as the bridesmaid never the bride, falling in consecutive series 4-1, 4-2, 4-2, 4-3 to Prince Albert. Dave and Brad Tippett were leaders for the franchise both on and off the ice. Brad scored a healthy 133 points in 1978 while Dave scored 236 points between 1979 and 1981.
Prince Albert won one more Hanbridge Cup, exiting the SJHL as league champions after taking out the broom and sweeping both Broncos teams and making quick work of the Yorktown Terriers in four straight as well. To go along with their eight SJHL Championships, they put together seven consecutive Anavet Cup titles, a trophy that goes to the SJHL champion or Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion in a provincial showdown. Adding to those lofty accolades, the much sought after Centennial Cup came home to Prince Albert three times. An organization with such success could no longer go ignored, and they became new members of the Western Hockey League.
From humble playoff beginnings to dominating the league on nearly every level possible, the Prince Albert Raiders were poised for further success upon entering the Western Hockey League. Much like they do now, they did then, sending players to the NHL and into careers beyond playing, including former Raiders James Patrick and Dave Tippett, who are head coach of the Winnipeg ICE and Edmonton Oilers respectively. Could we be at the beginning of a WHL dynasty for the Prince Albert Raiders? Time will tell.