In honour of the Western Hockey League celebrating its 50th season beginning this September, we thought we’d count down the top 25 WHL teams of all time (because 50 is just too crazy). Here are Nos. 20-16:
20. 1987–88 Medicine Hat Tigers
The second of back-to-back championships, the Tigers actually finished behind the Saskatoon Blades in the standings. That didn’t carry into the playoffs, though. After a first-round bye, Medicine Hat swept the Blades and then went on to take care of Kamloops to win their third WHL Championship. Barry Melrose coached the Tigers, in his first season, and had big name talents like Trevor Linden, Mark Pederson and Mark Fitzpatrick in goal. After the WHL championship they took out Drummondville 7-6 in the Memorial Cup title game.
19. 2014–15 Kelowna Rockets
Last year’s Rockets make the list after a fabulous season that came up just short in the end. They were the wire-to-wire leaders in the B.C. Division and the Western Conference, and only lost three playoff games on their way to their fourth WHL title. Two mid-season trades gave the Rockets tremendous fire power in the form of Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey. Nick Merkley was the team’s leading scorer and they had huge contributions from Rourke Chartier, Tyson Baillie and Madison Bowey. Kelowna came up just short in the Memorial Cup, losing the final game in overtime to the Oshawa Generals in a classic.
18. 2006–07 Medicine Hat Tigers
Led by head coach Willie Desjardins, the Tigers had an early scare in the first round, barely escaping Red Deer. After that they blew through the East and took out the Vancouver Giants in a seven-game final. The Tigers featured balanced scoring from guys like Kris Russell, Darren Helm, Derek Dorsett and a young Tyler Ennis. They moved on to the Memorial Cup, which was held in Vancouver, where the Giants were able to exact some revenge as Medicine Hat went down 3-1 in the final.
17. 1990–91 Spokane Chiefs
The high-flying Chiefs averaged more than six goals per game and earned their first championship in franchise history. Ray Whitney and Pat Falloon did most of the damage with 67 and 64 goals respectively. Coach Bryan Maxwell rode his big guns to a 14-1 playoff record, beating Lethbridge in the final. They went 3-0 at the Memorial Cup and took out Drummondville in the final. Not bad for a team that didn’t even win its division in the regular season.
16. 2012–13 Portland Winterhawks
Portland went on an incredible four-year run that saw them reach the WHL final each year. This team was the only one of those four squads to hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup. They fell short in the Memorial Cup final to the Halifax Mooseheads, but was still a loaded squad. Up front they featured three 40-plus scorers in Brendan Leipsic, Nicolas Petan, and Ty Rattie. But their strength was on the blueline where Troy Rutkowski, Seth Jones, Derrick Pouliot and Tyler Wotherspoon played. Portland won 57 game—a franchise record along with their 117 points.