The final game between the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos to finish the semifinals of the WHL playoffs was anything but a contest. Six goals by Swift Current, with two coming in each period, sealed the fate of the Warriors before a stunned home sellout crowd in Moose Jaw. Perhaps though it was a fitting end that the Broncos get the nod. This past week or so has been tough on the Province of Saskatchewan, particularly in Humboldt, Saskatchewan as their Broncos said goodbye to the sixteen person killed in a bus accident in early April. The name Broncos has some history with a bus crash in that the 1986-87 Swift Current Broncos saw tragedy with four players killed on December 30, 1986 as their team bus slid off a highway during a snowstorm as they headed toward Regina, Saskatchewan for a game.
Regina is the host team for the 100th Anniversary of the Memorial Cup, a trophy the Broncos from Speedy Creek have held just once and with the battle for survival of players a few hours to the north in Humboldt, the time may be now for Swift Current in nearly thirty years.
It’s also an unusual matchup as two teams in the east are about to meet for the first time in the third round for the Eastern Conference Championship. Back in 1974, the Swift Current Broncos moved to Lethbridge, Alberta as the team had been hemorrhaging money and the new Sportsplex that had open was looking for an occupant in Lethbridge. Over the next twelve seasons, the Lethbridge Broncos played there and won the President’s Cup (renamed the Ed Chynoweth Cup in honor of him in 2007) before the team was put up for sale. Despite having a strong and loyal fanbase, the group that purchased the team was from Swift Current and the team relocated in time for the 1986 season, the season that became fatal for the team. The Calgary Wranglers ended up moving to Lethbridge a year later and renamed the Hurricanes. Swift Current would win a Memorial Cup in 1989 and would be eliminated in a tiebreaker during the 1993 Memorial Cup Tournament.
There will undoubtedly be strong emotions in this series as there is history between the two clubs unlike any other and the prize will be a berth in the WHL Final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
The other matchup will see the Everett Silvertips taking on the Tri-City Americans in the Western Conference final with Portland Winterhawks attachments. The Everett Silvertips General Manager is Garry Davidson who was the Director of Player Personnel for the Portland Winterhawks from 2008-2011 where he was a key figure in the Winterhawks success in the Bantam Draft and scouting recruited players before he signed on with the Silvertips in 2012. Bronson Sharp was traded to the Silvertips this season from Portland for a fifth round draft pick in 2020. Sharp 18, played in 49 games this season and while not a goal producer, has been a gritty addition to the team.
On the other side, the Tri-City Americans also have Winterhawks connections as well. Brett Clayton who started with the Winterhawks this season, was sent down to the Alberta Junior Hockey League and subsequently released from the Hawks protected list. The Americans claimed him and he played sixty games for them collecting ten points in the regular season and has suited up for all eight playoff games so far. The Head Coach is Mike Williamson, a former Winterhawks player and head coach from 1999-2007. Williamson was an assistant coach when the Hawks won the Memorial Cup in 1998. Alongside Williamson is Brian Pellerin who was an assistant coach with Williamson in Portland from 2004-2007 and joined the Americans in 2014. Equipment Manager Innes “Inch” Mackie started with the Winterhawks in 1976 as the trainer and continued until moving on to the Americans in 2008.
The Winterhawks sent out an email to the season ticketholders today announcing the tentative schedule highlights of the new 68 game schedule. Reducing the schedule by four games from the previous 72, which has been in place since 1975, will mean fewer weeknight games, down to just nine for next season and two fewer games against Spokane and Tri-City which were weeknight games for some of them. While the schedule will not be released until buildings have been confirmed, the first regular season game will be Saturday, September 22 with the last regular season game being Sunday, March 17, 2019.