Folks, it is August 12th, and we are almost there. Training camp is just around the bend, and we are ready to get things moving into the hockey season. In the meantime, we have wound back the clock and taken a crack at assembling an all-time Blazers roster:
(Here at DUBNetwork.ca we will be taking a look at – in each beat writer’s opinion – the best all-time roster for each WHL team. We will be spreading these out from now until next summer. Please let us know what you think)
Goalie: Devan Dubnyk
The Regina, Sask. native has played the second-most all-time games as a Blazers goalie, only three behind Randy Petruk’s 196. After starting in just 29 games across his first two seasons, Dubnyk entered the crease full-time for Kamloops in 2003-2004 and never looked back. In his final three seasons as a Blazer, Dubnyk averaged a 2.58 goals-against average and a 0.913 save percentage. While he may lack the junior accolades that were achieved by his predecessors, Dubnyk carried the Blazers through their mediocre years of the early to mid-2000s.
Defence: Darryl Sydor
From Memorial Cup champion to part-owner to associate coach, Darryl Sydor has just about done it all. Sydor began the 1991-1992 season with the Los Angeles Kings before being sent back to Kamloops where he helped the Blazers win the first of three Memorial Cups. With his junior career in the rearview mirror, Sydor entered the NHL in 1992 and remained there for 17 seasons. After 1,291 games and two Stanley Cups, the native of Edmonton retired from professional hockey and has since joined the Blazers as an associate coach.
Defence: Greg Hawgood
Like Rob Brown, Greg Hawgood began his junior career in Kamloops in the 1983-1984 season. The Edmonton product finished top-five in scoring during three of his five seasons as a Blazer. His 440 points in Kamloops are good for second all-time, only 24 behind his teammate Brown. With 326 assists and 473 points, Hawgood finished third and ninth in WHL scoring history, respectively, and first overall by defensemen. Only Dale Derkatch with the Regina Pats tallied more assists and points in WHL playoff history than Hawgood. Once graduated from the WHL, Hawgood’s professional career spanned across eight NHL teams, five professional leagues and two decades. His number four sweater is now hanging in the rafters at the Sandman Centre, and for good reason.
Left-Wing: Tyson Nash
Nash was listed by the Blazers at just 13 years old, and his timing could not have been better. Just two years later, the Edmonton product received a call during English class explaining that he would be joining the Blazers during a rash of injuries, and the rest is history. Nash’s statistics pale in comparison to some of his contemporary teammates, but his versatility and physical play were the perfect complements to teams saturated with skill. Nash joins Tucker as one of three players to win the 1991, 1992, and 1995 Memorial Cups.
Center: Darcy Tucker
One of three players to be part of all three Memorial Cup wins with the Blazers in 1992, 1994, and 1995. The diminutive forward from Castor, Alberta finished third all-time in points for the Blazers, collecting 150 goals, 229 assists for 379 points in just 223 games and was named the MVP of the 1994 Memorial Cup. Along with his 14 seasons and 947 games played in the National Hockey League, Tucker helped team Canada win gold at the 1995 World Junior Championship.
Right-Wing: Rob Brown
Everybody scored in the 80s, Rob Brown just scored more. Born in Kingston, Ontario, the 5-foot-11 forward joined Kamloops in 1983-1984 when they were still known as the Junior Oilers. Brown put up over a point-per-game in his 15 and 16-year old seasons, and then he started playing in “easy” mode. Brown’s 173 points in 1984-1985 led the WHL by a significant margin, but he wasn’t done there. Suiting up for the Blazers in 1985-1986, Brown tallied 76 goals and 136 assists for 212 points, 66 more than second-place Craig Endean. To put his season in perspective, those 212 points alone would be good for top-30 in Blazers scoring history. Brown’s 136 assists and 212 points are both single-season records in the WHL. Only Cliff Ronning’s 197 points in 1984-1985 come close. Perhaps the most remarkable statistic is that Brown’s record-setting season required only 63 games, seven less than Ronning’s best year. Brown’s number 44 now hangs in the rafters in Kamloops because, well, of course it does.
Coach: Don Hay
Ken Hitchcock is no slouch, nor is Tom Renney, but Don Hay is in a league of his own. Hay is the winningest coach in WHL history, amassing 750 wins across his career, including 255 with Kamloops. Hay guided the Blazers to back-to-back Memorial Cups in the 90s before capturing his third championship with the Vancouver Giants in 2006-2007. With 1,366 games and over 20 seasons of experience as a head coach in the WHL, the native of Kamloops has etched his name into the history of junior hockey.
General Manager: Bob Brown
Not a shadow of a doubt. A two-time winner of the executive of the year, Bob Brown was responsible for assembling the early 90s dynasty in Kamloops that was tabbed as a top-four finalist in the CHL team of the century. Brown has since been inducted into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame.