It was an all Canadian Final as Prince Albert completed the demise of the Edmonton Oil Kings with a 4 to 2 score. After shutting out the Oil Kings 4 to 0, the two teams fought it out in Edmonton.
With the win, Prince Albert won the series also by a 4-2 margin and hosted the Vancouver Giants for the WHL Championship with that winner going on to the Memorial Cup. Vancouver moved in earlier with a 4-1 series win over Spokane.
With Prince Albert being a small market team, flying had to be done on a budget with the decision being the first pair of games in Prince Albert., the next three in Vancouver and the last two in Prince Albert. Vancouver split the first two after winning 5-4 then getting shutout 4-0. When the action resumed in Vancouver, Prince Albert took control with an 8-2 mauling and a 1-0 shutout. Vancouver was able to come back with a 4-3 win. Vancouver took Prince Albert to the edge with a 4-2 win and kept Prince Albert tied going into overtime. With Just a minute and change left in that overtime, Prince Albert completed the comeback scoring at 18;25 of the first overtime and their first berth in the Memorial Cup since joining the league in 1982.
Prince Albert seemed to suffer the same fate with the WHL curse in not being able to win any games in the tournament. Swift Current won nothing last year either and had to have a fire sale on their team. Prince Albert may suffer the same fate as they lose some strong overage players and have to pare down from nine nineteen year olds to three as they now become overage players. In fact Kelowna was the last WHL team to score a victory in the Memorial Cup and they didn’t go to the finals either.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies had a long trip through the Memorial Cup, but won their first title in team history. The Huskies and Guelph had to meet in the tiebreaker as neither beat Halifax and the Huskies were able to beat Guelph to face Halifax. Unlike the previous meeting, Halifax opened a 2-0 lead, but saw Rouyn-Noranda score four straight to win the Cup.
People still feel that the league title is the real title and not a tournament of four games which may see a bad game by a team which could throw the whole series out. The leagues did some adjustments with a 68 game schedule for all leagues, but the WHL continues to be disparaging in that they have a “swing” of up to two weeks where the other leagues in Ontario and Quebec are luck to travel to remote areas ten times in a year with no swings at all. Until that changes, things will be tough for the WHL league. Cost is also a factor at a projected 3-4 million dollar price tag. it shuts out many small market teams from hosting the event. Packages start at close to $600 which is the media average for an entire season of games. It will be interesting to see how Kelowna fares with hosting next season as their team failed to make the playoffs this year and thus far have seen little in the trading department to bolster the team for a run.
In Winterhawks news, Shane Farkas was traded to Victoria along with the fifth round Bantam draft pick with Victoria returning a fourth round pick. Farkas was the odd man out as Dante Giannuzzi will come in as a seventeen year old and Joel Hofer, who the Hawks traded six picks for last year, will come in as a nineteen year old. That leaves the Hawks having to decide on four nineteens to reduce to three for next season. Kamloops was the big pick trader with four picks being moved the all separate teams with all picks happening this bantam draft and all moving to 2021 in the same position.
Dean “Scooter” Vrooman officially retired from the Winterhawks after being with the team since late 1981. Of late, he has been a Director of Sponsorship, but is best known for his time as a broadcaster. He was dismissed by an ownership group in 2007, but returned to the team after the team was sold to the present day ownership group. Dean remained as a member of the alumni and helped with a number of behind the scenes activities. His departure leaves very few people who have been with the team for a period of time and the history.
The WHL and in turn the CHL are looking to combat the threat of a lawsuit on per hour pay among other things. The July 14 cutoff will be interesting to see if the leagues can thwart the lawsuit or if players will begin to jump ship. At the center of this is the feeling that the players should be treated as employees who deserve an hourly wage. Currently players are entitled to a year of tuition and books at a Canadian University for each year that they play. In addition, things like supplies to play, ice time and many other items are given to the players as well. The rub is on sales of tickets, merchandise and sponsors which teams use to offset the costs. Some teams are doing well, but the question will be if they will remain that way should they have to go through the legal proceedings.