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. 25-21:
25. 2001–02 Kootenay Ice
Lost out to the Kamloops Blazers by one point for the B.C. Division title and hit the WHL playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the West. Thanks to first-round upsets of Kamloops and Portland, the Ice had a somewhat easy path to the final, where they took out Red Deer in six games. Kootenay caught fire at the Memorial Cup and beat Victoriaville for their first national championship. Jarret Stoll led the ice with 40 goals and Kootenay featured five other 30-goal scorers for head coach Ryan McGill.
24. 1998–99 Calgary Hitmen
In only their fourth season in the league, the Hitmen won 51 games and ran away with the Central Division. Head coach Dean Clark’s team got a scare from Kootenay in the first round of the playoffs—winning in seven—then won 12 of the their next 14 games to get to the Memorial Cup. At the national championship, Calgary finished second to the home-standing Ottawa 67’s, losing the final 7-6 in overtime. The Hitmen were led by Pavel Brendl, who’s 73 goals and 134 points were tops in the WHL.
23. 1968–69 Flin Flon Bombers
In their second season in what was then the Western Canadian Hockey League, the Bombers averaged more than five-and-a-half goals per game and ran away with the Eastern Division and league as a whole. Bobby Clarke had 51 goals and 137 points to lead the league in scoring while Reggie Leach chipped in 36 markers. The Bombers led the league in goals scored and took out the Edmonton Oil Kings in a six-game final. The league was not eligible to participate in the Memorial Cup then, so the Bombers took on the St. Thomas Barons of the Western Ontario Junior A Hockey League, winning a four-game series.
22. 1973–74 Regina Pats
Head coach Bob Turner led the Pats to the league’s best record before they tore through the playoffs and beat the Calgary Centennials in a four-game sweep to win the WHL championship. The Pats stayed in Calgary for the Memorial Cup where they took out the Quebec Remparts 7-4 in the final. Dennis Sobchuk led the Pats in scoring with 146 points and the great Clark Gilles was big as well, piling up 46 goals and 112 points.
21. 1977–78 New Westminster Bruins
This edition of the Bruins was the last of New Westminster’s legendary run of four straight WHL championships and two consecutive Memorial Cups. Finishing third in the West Division it seemed like maybe the reign was going to end, but the Bruins weren’t finished hand beat the Billings Bighorns in the final. Despite only going 2-2 at the Memorial Cup they managed to get to the final where they took out the Peterborough Petes 7-4. The Bruins could score, led by John Ogrodnick, Terry Kirkham and Stan Smyl, but they were also not shy about dropping the gloves. They had six players with more than 100 penalty minutes—led by Boris Fistric’s whopping 414.