Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Memorial Cup: A history . . . 1984

Kamloops Junior Oilers, Kitchener Rangers, Ottawa 67's and Laval Voisins
at Kitchener (Memorial Auditorium)

This was a Memorial Cup that was eagerly anticipated by hockey people, scouts and fans alike.
It had nothing to do with which teams were, or weren't, gathering in Kitchener to decide the 66th winner of the Memorial Cup.
Instead, everyone was anxious to see centre Mario Lemieux.
And why not?
A year earlier, everyone was singing the praises of Verdun Junior centre Pat LaFontaine. All he had done was lead the QMJHL in goals (104), assists (130) and points (234). Impressive accomplishments? Certainly.
But then along came Super Mario.
All he did was score 133 goals and set up 149 others, giving him 282 points in 70 games. Impressive? Surreal.
Yes, Lemieux won the scoring title. When the regular season ended, he had a 112-point edge over linemate Jacques Goyette. Alain Bisson, the other member of the line, was 12th, with 31 goals and 82 assists.
Two other Laval skaters were in the top 10 -- Francois Sills was sixth, with 130 points, and Yves Courteau was 10th, at 120.
The Voisins -- they would become the Titan after this season -- were without centre Michel Mongeau down the stretch. He missed the QMJHL playoffs with mononucleosis but vowed to play in Kitchener "even if it means I have to sleep all week.”
Paced by Lemieux, Laval scored an amazing 527 goals. No other QMJHL team scored more than 400 goals. The Longueuil Chevaliers, with 371 goals, were second in offence.
At the same time, Laval allowed only 289 goals -- one supposes the Voisins had the puck all the time, proving that the best defence is, indeed, a good offence. Only the Shawinigan Cataractes, who gave up 287 goals, were better defensively.
The Laval defence was headed up by Steven Finn and Bobby Dollas. Tony Haladuick was the No. 1 goaltender.
The Voisins, of head coach Jean Begin, coasted through the first two rounds of postseason play, brushing aside the Granby Bisons and Drummondville Voltigeurs in four games each, scoring 46 goals and allowing 23 en route to the championship final.
There, they met up with the Chevaliers and it took six games for them to advance.
Yes, Lemieux was the top scorer -- he totalled 52 points, including 29 goals, six of them in the sixth game of the final, in only 14 games.
That meant that in 84 games, Lemieux, who wore No. 66, scored 162 goals and set up 172 others, for a grand total of 334 points. Yes, it was a season for the ages.
"It will be the 66th Memorial Cup and I hope our No. 66 will continue his output of the regular season and playoffs,” Begin said.
Brian Kilrea's Ottawa 67's, meanwhile, rode into the Memorial Cup tournament on a 13-game unbeaten streak. After an opening-round bye, the 67's put together the unbeaten string, eliminating the Oshawa Generals, Toronto Marlboros and Kitchener Rangers in the process. They took the eight-point final from the Rangers in five games -- three victories and two ties.
Kilrea had put together a team that featured Darren Pang, whom the coach considered the best junior goaltender in Canada. Pang had a 3.04 GAA in 43 regular-season games. Then he played in all but 54 minutes during the playoffs and was at 3.30.
On defence, Kilrea said, "This club has Brad Shaw, Mark Paterson, Bruce Cassidy and Roy Myllari and I'm not afraid to use them in any situation.”
Cassidy and Shaw were also key offensive players. Cassidy was the team's second-leading point-getter in the regular season, with 95, including 27 goals. He added six goals and 16 assists in the playoffs. Shaw had 11 goals and 71 assists in the regular season, then added two goals and 27 assists in the postseason.
The club's leading pointman was right-winger Don McLaren with 113, including 43 goals. Centre Adam Creighton had 41 goals and 49 assists in only 56 games as he spent part of the season with the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.
In the OHL final, Creighton was used to check Kitchener ace John Tucker. Still, Creighton ended the playoffs with 16 goals and 12 assists, his 28 points second on the team to Shaw's 29.
Ottawa had finished the regular season at 50-18-2, just behind Kitchener's 52-16-2. The two teams had quite a rivalry. But while the 67's were making their second appearance in the tournament -- they had lost to the New Westminster Bruins in the 1977 final -- the Rangers were about to appear in their third tournament in four seasons.
Kitchener coach Tom Barrett knew his team had struggled down the stretch, perhaps because it had clinched a spot in the Memorial Cup some seven weeks before the tournament began.
The OHL had decided its top regular-season point-getter would be the host team. That turned out to be the Rangers.
"It showed right away,” right-winger Wayne Presley said. "We clinched it on a Friday night with our 25th straight win, and then we went into Peterborough and lost 5-1 to the Petes, who we'd had no trouble with all year.
"In the back of our minds, we knew we were in the Memorial Cup. So why try hard?”
Presley was the Rangers' top gun, with 139 points, including 63 goals, in 70 regular-season games.
But Tucker was the star.
Tucker, who spent two months with Buffalo, scored 40 goals and finished with 100 points in only 39 games, accomplishments that earned him the OHL's most valuable player award.
Defenceman Dave Shaw also spent time in the NHL, with the Quebec Nordiques.
But it was the injury bug that had the Rangers concerned going into the tournament. Defenceman Jim Quinn, left-winger Greg Puhalski, a 99-point man, and 52-goal right-winger David Bruce all were questionable for the start.
And goaltender Ray LeBlanc, at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, just about was running on empty.
"He's played in 45 of our last 46 games and he's just physically exhausted,” Barrett said.
LeBlanc had posted a 3.74 regular-season GAA and had put together a 31-game winning streak. But the Rangers went into the tournament having won only two of their last 10 games and having lost by such scores as 9-4, 11-6 and 13-4.
If there was a team, besides Laval, that knew all about scoring goals it was the WHL-champion Kamloops Junior Oilers.
They led the WHL with 467 goals and boasted 10 20-goal scorers, but none with more than centre Dean Evason's 49.
Evason finished with 137 points, good for sixth in the scoring race. Defenceman Doug Bodger was next on the Blazers, with 98 points.
Other forwards like Mike Nottingham (48 goals), Tony Vogel (41), Greg Evtushevski (27), Stacey Wakabayashi (32), Ryan Stewart (31) and Doug Saunders (35) knew where the other team's net was, too. So did Jim Camazzola, who had 27 goals and 52 points in only 32 games.
And they also had 16-year-old Rob Brown, who had 16 goals and 58 points in 50 games as a rookie.
Coached by the volatile Bill LaForge, the Junior Oilers had won the West Division with a 50-22-0 record. In fact, that was the WHL's best record, three points better than Regina Pats' East Division-winning total. (During the Memorial Cup, it would be announced that LaForge was to be the next head coach of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks.)
Kamloops swept through its division playoffs, winning best-of-nine series from the Seattle Breakers and Portland Winter Hawks in five games.
And, in the championship final, the Junior Oilers went the full seven games before sidelining Regina. Evason totalled 41 points in 17 playoff games, while Camazzola had 31 points.
The biggest improvement, however, was in goal. Darryl Reaugh, who had posted a 4.34 regular-season GAA, got it down to 3.52 as he played in all 17 postseason games.
The Junior Oilers were owned by the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, a situation that would change over the summer when the franchise was sold to a community group.
Kitchener opened the tournament on May 12 by hanging an 8-2 whipping on Laval before 6,723 fans.
Lemieux was held pointless for just the third time in 85 games.
Brian Wilks and Carmine Vani, with two goals each, Puhalski, Shawn Burr, Tucker and Presley scored for the Rangers, who led 3-0 and 7-0 at the period breaks.
Mongeau and Courteau scored for Laval, which was outshot 45-20, including 14-2 in the second period.
The Rangers made it two in a row on May 13 as they hung on to beat Kamloops 9-7 in front of 6,494 fans.
"We were jittery since we didn't know anything about Kamloops,” Barrett said after his club had clinched at least a semifinal berth. "The crowd was maybe worth a goal for us, but we were also scared because if you don't play well, they'll be on their feet.”
Wilks and Garnet McKechney, with two each, Presley, Bruce, Puhalski and Shaw scored to put the Rangers out front 8-0 before the game was half over.
Brown and Camazzola put Kamloops on the board before the second period ended.
Then, Vogel scored in the third period. And Camazzola added another one. Before Kitchener knew what had hit it, Stewart, defenceman Ken Daneyko and Evason had scored to bring the Junior Oilers to within one at 8-7. And there was more than three minutes left.
But, finally, Bruce iced it with an empty-net goal at 19:53.
"I think we quit after we got the big lead,” Barrett said. "We got it easier than we should have got it. Then we laid back, didn't close the door and they took it to us.”
Also on May 13, Ottawa clinched at least a semifinal berth by beating Laval 6-5 before 6,582 fans.
Lemieux was held to a goal (it came 1:39 into the game on a power play) and an assist, but felt he had played better than in the opener.
"Everybody has been talking about how I didn't give a good performance last night, so I had to play very well tonight,” Lemieux said.
Mongeau and Courteau also scored early for Laval, which led 3-1 just 10 minutes into the game. McLaren accounted for Ottawa's first goal.
Cassidy and Bill Bennett tied it with power-play goals, before Mongeau sent Laval out front again, only to have Bennett tie it again on another power play.
Creighton and Sills then traded goals before Phil Patterson won it at 9:07 of the third period.
"Obviously, some of our players thought they were going to pad their totals tonight because they played as individuals and not as a team,” Kilrea said.
He had lifted Pang, in favor of Greg Coram, just 1:51 into the game after Laval had scored on its first two shots.
"I didn't like what I saw from the goaltender out,” Kilrea said. "I thought I would try to change the momentum.”
Pang was back in form one night later as he backstopped the 67's to a 5-1 victory over Kamloops. Attendance was 6,327.
"There wasn't a doubt,” Kilrea said when asked if he considered not starting Pang. "It was opening-game jitters. Everybody gets them -- even coaches and general managers.
"He's been the best goalie all season. Nothing has changed that now.”
Pang faced only 18 shots and LaForge was impressed with Ottawa's defence.
"We had trouble penetrating and you know half our team can't drive and the other half can't shoot,” he said.
Ottawa got two goals from Cassidy and singles from Creighton, McLaren and Steve Hrynewich.
Kamloops, with one foot in the grave, bounced back to edge Laval 4-3 on May 15 before 6,298 fans. The loss put Kamloops into a semfinal game and eliminated Laval.
Sills scored twice for the Voisins, who again ran into penalty trouble.
"We just took too many penalties,” Sills said. "It was a different kind of refereeing situation for us compared with our league.”
Goyette had Laval's other goal.
Evason, Camazzola, Daneyko and Brian Bertuzzi scored for Kamloops.
Lemieux, who was held to one assist in his final junior game, finished the tournament with a goal and two assists in three games.
On May 16, in front of 7,226 noisy fans, Kitchener, which was designated as the visiting team and wore blue away uniforms, whipped Ottawa 7-2 to move into the final and send the '67s against Kamloops.
"I think revenge played a big part in it -- at least for the players,” Dave Shaw said. "We were pretty embarrassed losing at home to Ottawa in the playoffs.”
Wilks led the Rangers with his fifth and sixth goals of the tournament. Shaw, with two, Presley, Burr and Mike Stevens also scored for the winners.
Cassidy and Bennett replied for Ottawa.
LeBlanc was superb, stopping 16 first-period shots and 36 on the night.
"That's what they needed,” LeBlanc said. "That's how you win games.”
On May 17, in front of 6,316 fans, the '67s got two goals and three assists from Creighton in a 7-2 victory over the Junior Oilers.
That set up yet another meeting between the Rangers and 67's. The teams would go into the final having already played each other 10 times in the season, each team winning four times and tying two others.
The 67's were not treated very kindly by the crowd, something Creighton noted.
"They're allowed to have their opinion,” he said, after taking over the tournament scoring lead with 10 points, including four goals. "You can't shut them up, but I sure would like to.”
Kilrea thought his players picked up the pace after Brad Shaw went down with an injury. He suffered a deep cut above his right eye when he was hit by a shot from Nottingham. X-rays were negative.
"I think the guys really began to play when they saw Brad go off the ice,” Kilrea said. "They knew what he was done for the club and what they then had to do without him.”
McLaren, with two, Cassidy, Bob Giffen and Darcy Roy also scored for Ottawa.
Bertuzzi and Nottingham scored for Kamloops.
"We've played 103 games this season and there haven't been many when the guys didn't go all out,” LaForge said. "The '67s and Rangers are just better than us.”
The next day, LaForge was named head coach of the Canucks.
Ottawa went on to win its first Memorial Cup, scoring a 7-2 victory on May 22 before about 7,241 fans.
The 67's, who won the season series from the Rangers 5-4-2, got two goals each from Cassidy and Patterson, with singles from Creighton, Shaw and Gary Roberts.
Puhalski and Tucker replied for the Rangers, who were outshot 36-22, including 16-6 in the first period when they fell behind 3-1.
Kilrea pointed to two bizarre goals as the difference.
With the score tied 1-1, LeBlanc lost the puck in one corner to Patterson, who turned and scored from a horrible angle. Then, Cassidy tried a dump in only to have the puck bounce crazily off the glass and past LeBlanc, who had left the net in anticipation of stopping the puck along the boards.
"Those two goals told me that we were somehow destined to win,” Kilrea said. "I think the guy upstairs wanted to give us a hand.”
Creighton, who tied with Cassidy for the scoring lead with 12 points, was named the MVP. Wilks was selected the most sportsmanlike player and Pang was the most outstanding goaltender.
The all-star team featured Pang, Dave Shaw and Cassidy on defence, Creighton at centre, Camazzola at left wing and McLaren on the right side.
Attendance for the eight games totalled 53,207. At that time, that was the third-largest attendance total, behind Vancouver in 1977 (58,995) and Portland in 1983 (54,090).

NEXT: 1985 (Prince Albert Raiders, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Verdun Junior Canadiens and Shawinigan Cataractes)

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