WHL Updates – Kamloops Blazers Make Money, Portland Winterhawks Sign A Brother, And The ICE Goes Wild

The Kamloops Blazers announced that over $300,000 was raised for local area charities during the Memorial Cup.  

The Cup won by Quebec Remparts was the last under the guidance of Patrick Roy. Roy, 61, was best known as the hit goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche and has not looked to resume his career behind the bench in the NHL. 

Former Portland Winterhawks Alumni Aiden Hill got his first taste of the Stanley Cup for the Las Vegas Golden Knights with a massive finals win over the Florida Panthers.

Hill wasn’t the original starter, but he was virtually unstoppable once he made it in between the pipes. At 29, he is coming into his prime, so Vegas fans will see another wave like when Marc Andre-Fleury played and helped win the cup in the Golden Knights’ inaugural season.

The Portland Winterhawks signed the brother of forward Hudson Darby to a standard WHL contract. Griffen Darby is a defenceman and the first to be drafted in the first round in WHL Bantam Draft since 2009. 

The Winnipeg ICE are no more. For the past few years, there has been an uneasy feeling about them since their abrupt move from Cranbrook, BC, to Manitoba. There is still litigation pending on a contract to see the ICE in Cranbrook through 2025.

The move was to see the ICE build a 5000-seat venue on the south end of Winnipeg, but initially, the team would play at the Wayne Fleming Arena at the University of Manitoba, where construction took place. The arena was substantially upgraded to make it more WHL-friendly, with a new scoreboard, lighting, etc. Dubbed the “ICE Cave,” its wooden bleachers on one side of the rink harkened to old-school Canadian arenas.

There was uncollaborated talk that a fine had been levied on the ICE for not having the arena or plans shown to build. Both the WHL and ICE denied this was happening.

The ICE went all in this year by taking draft picks to land players and making heavy trades that would gut their team in the next few years. 

The ICE lost the WHL final to the Seattle Thunderbirds and therefore didn’t make it to the Memorial Cup. It seems that may have been the last straw.

The Board of Governors voted to authorize a sale of the team to Wenatchee, WA. This is where things get interesting. The city of Wenatchee had a team, the Wild representing the BCHL. Over the past few years with Covid, the Wild has been unable to cross the border and ceased operations until it was able to resume travel. 

The BCHL, meanwhile, ended its association with Hockey Canada and would no longer be able to participate in the Centennial Cup, which is equivalent to Memorial Cup in Junior A hockey. There is talk of restructuring the BCHL to a pay-to-play league in 2025, and they have removed Junior A  as the status by saying they are more competitive.  

With all that going on, the Wild entered into an arrangement with the WHL, becoming the sixth team in the US Division. With 11 teams per conference,  they won’t have all teams playing on any night unless one team is on a swing. The new team will be called the Wild and sets up close proximities to Seattle, Everett, Spokane, and Tri-City. Even Portland, at 290 miles, could look like an up-and-back trip, which saves on travel costs. 

Winnipeg continues its futility with teams such as the Blues, Clubs, and, most recently, the Warriors, who moved in 1984 to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

It leaves Brandon Wheat Kings as the only Manitoba team and a 6-hour trek to their closest rival, Regina Pats.

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About Stuart Kemp 323 Articles
Stuart Kemp is the Immediate Past President of 15 years of the Booster Club. and has been following hockey from his native Canada since he can remember, though he can't skate, but played road hockey for several years. Loving hockey and professional wrestling, he has traveled to most of the WHL cities and with wrestling, has seen four provinces and five states. It is true that every Canadian city with more than 500 residents has a hockey rink, well at least it looks that way. Stuart has had his hand in every facet of independent Professional wrestling as he debuted as an announcer in 1986 which started his career.