When it comes to success in the Western Hockey League, the Kamloops Blazers are just about as storied as they come.
One the franchise’s most notable alumni, Jarome Iginla, even compared the club to the NHL’s successful Montreal Canadiens, saying, “When you put on a Blazers jersey, it’s like putting on the Canadiens’. You’ve got to perform.”
Before they were called the Kamloops Blazers, the team also went by Kamloops Junior Oilers, New Westminster Bruins and the Estevan Bruins – and we saw many notable names skate for those earlier incarnations: Dean Evason, Garth Butcher, Craig Berube, Doug Bodger and Ken Daneyko, to name a few.
But since 1984-85, the Kamloops team has gone by the name Blazers and you’ll see many alumni on NHL rosters today, including Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Scottie Upshall, Devan Dubnyk, Kris Versteeg and more.
But it’s those dynastic years in the early 1990s that earned Kamloops its reputation as a powerful junior club, winning the Memorial Cup in 1992, 1994 and 1995.
With this year’s Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada celebration being hosted by the City of Kamloops, we look back at some of the top Blazers alumni who made it to the NHL, with a special focus on those championship years of the early 1990s:
Blazers career: 1992 to 1995
Doan played three seasons with the Blazers, and was an integral part of the team’s back-to-back Memorial Cup victories in 1994 and 1995. He was named the tournament MVP in 1995, a year in which many think the Blazers iced their best-ever team.
The captain of the Arizona Coyotes has been with the desert club since the beginning and has been the face of the franchise for most of that time. (Originally drafted by the first edition of the Winnipeg Jets, Doan transferred to Arizona with the club as a sophomore.) Now in his 12th season as C-bearer, he is the longest-tenured captain in the entire league and leads the franchise in games played (1,430), game-winning goals (67) and goals (384). The two-time NHL all-star is also second in total points (922) and power-play goals (121) and third is assists (538) and penalty minutes (1,259) in team history.
Doan is now part of the Blazers’ ownership group, along with Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi, Darryl Sydor and Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi.
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Blazers career: 1993-1996
Like Doan, Iginla was also a part of that notable team that won two consecutive Memorial Cups. In his third year with the junior club, Iginla registered 63 goals in 63 games and placed fourth in overall league scoring with 136 points. That year, he was awarded the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s most outstanding player.
Iginla’s professional career began just a short plane trip away in Calgary, where he would go on to captain the Flames for years. By the end of his 16-and-a-half seasons with the Flames, Iginla would become the franchise leader in games played (1,219), goals (525) and points (1,095). His tenure with the Flames ended in 2012-13 when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the next two seasons with the Boston Bruins, and is currently a member of the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he scored his 600th career NHL goal on Jan. 5, becoming the 19th player in league history to reach the milestone.
Blazers career: 1986-88
Not only did Recchi represent Kamloops in the WHL, he also grew up there. In fact, there’s now a street named after the retired NHLer. He is one of six former Blazers to have his number retired by the team, after tallying 230 points in 102 games with his native junior club.
Recchi never won a Memorial Cup, but he did help his NHL clubs to three Stanley Cup championships. The seven-time NHL all-star won his first Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991, his second with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and his third with the Boston Bruins in 2011 — becoming the second-oldest player to win the Cup (after Chris Chelios) at age 43. In total, Recchi suited up for seven different NHL teams throughout his 23-year pro career, registering 1,533 points in 1,652 career regular season games.
Blazers career: 1989-1992
Though the number 27 is what we associate with this NHL Hall of Famer, Kamloops hangs No. 28 from the rafters to honour Niedermayer. Before he became a four-time Stanley Cup champion (three with New Jersey, one with Anaheim), he led the Blazers to their first-ever Memorial Cup victory in 1992, earning himself MVP honours in the process.
By the end of his Hall of Fame career, the Norris-winning defenceman and 2007 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient registered 740 points in 1,263 career regular season games.
Blazers career: 1991-95
Darcy Tucker played a supporting role when the Blazers won their first-ever Memorial Cup in 1992, but he was a star in leading the team to its second and third. Tucker led the team in scoring in both the regular season and the playoffs in each of its back-to-back championship seasons, lifting the team into dynasty conversation.
Though his success in the NHL didn’t match his decorated WHL career, Tucker was considered a fan favourite in Toronto, where he spent the majority of his pro career as one of the Maple Leafs’ tough guys.
Blazers career: 1988-1992
Sydor was another member of that Blazers group that won the franchise its first Memorial Cup in 1992. He earned 48 points in 29 games during the regular season before making the full-time jump into the NHL the next year, where he’d go with Wayne Gretzky’s Kings all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
The defenceman’s career saw him suit up for 1,291 regular season games over the course of 18 seasons with six different teams — including three different stints with the Dallas Stars.