Congratulations to the Edmonton Oil Kings for their Memorial Cup victory over the weekend.
The Western Hockey League champions didn’t exactly light it up during the round-robin, going 1-1-0-1, but did enough to earn a place in the semi-final. With a victory over the Val-d’Or Foreurs in triple overtime on Friday, they then beat the Guelph Storm 6-3 on Sunday.
It was the Western Hockey League’s first Memorial Cup win since the Spokane Chiefs won it in 2008.
In that five-year span, the WHL champs made the final three times but weren’t able to win the big one. The big, speedy Oil Kings changed that.
In total, the WHL now has 19 wins since the current format was adopted in 1972, with the OHL next with 14 and the QMJHL trailing with 10.
One of the joys of having a Western Hockey League team in Prince Albert is the ability it gives local hockey fans to see the game played at the highest levels in junior.
The Raiders fell in four straight games to the Oil Kings but gave a good showing of themselves against a more skilled opponent. To close observers, it was clear that the Oil Kings had the ability to win the big one, although much can happen with the young men who pull on jerseys during a gruelling playoff run.
It’s a mug’s game arguing who the league’s great champions have been in the last three decades but the Medicine Hat Tigers of the late ’80s, the Kamloops Blazers of the mid-’90s, the 1997-98 Portland Winterhawks and maybe even the Kelowna Rockets of the early 2000s would certainly merit a spot in the conversation.
With three consecutive trips to the league final and two championships in that period, it would be hard not to include the Oil Kings in that list as well.
The amazing part of the story is that the franchise is just seven years old. They missed the playoffs twice and bowed out twice in the first round during those first four years and have been magic since.
Like winning organizations in any sport, it’s sometimes difficult to identify the secret sauce that breeds success.
It includes a blend of the talent on the ice, inspired coaching and a mix of skill and luck from the general manager.
It’s worth noting that only three Oil Kings were picked up in trades. Seven of the players were listed, and while six were drafted in the first three rounds, four were drafted in the final four rounds.
While Raiders fans may be understandably upset with their team’s early ouster from the playoffs, it came at the hands of the best junior team in the country.
All fans can hope is that the Raiders learned in defeat.
Prince Albert Daily Herald