A number of B.C. teams have excelled in hockey. The Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup in 1915 and the Victoria Cougars did the same ten years later. The Kimberly Dynamiters won the World Championships in 1937 and the Penticton Vees in 1955. The Trail Smoke Eaters won the Worlds both in 1939 and 1961. And the Vernon Lakers/Vipers topped Canadian Junior A hockey when they won the Centennial/Royal Cups in 1990, 1991, 1996 and 1999.
B.C.’s other success story has been the Kamloops Blasers. They have achieved seven 50 win seasons and six WHL championships during their sixteen year history. The Blasers have made six Memorial Cup appearances, which is only one behind the Peterborough Petes who have played twenty-two more seasons. Kamloops also won the Memorial Cup three times in four years from 1991-92 to 1994-95 which is a record.
During these years three Blasers were named Memorial Cup MVPs: Darcy Tucker, Shane Doan and Scott Niedermayer. Also, three Kamloops coaches have moved on to become NHL coaches: Ken Hitchcock, Tom Renney and Don Hay.
Why has this small B.C. city repeatedly beaten higher budgeted teams in larger centres across Canada and the U.S.? First of all the Blasers have the community support of eighty thousand fans. Tom Renney states: “There is a tremendous sense of pride in the community that collectively supports the tradition of the team.”
The Kamloops tradition started nearly seventy-five years ago when they registered a team with the B.C.A.H.A. during the 1927-28 season. Their teams played on natural ice until Kamloops built a 2200 seat Memorial Arena during the 1948-49 season. The first championship Kamloops team, the Elks played the following year in the new Mainland Okanagan Amateur Hockey League. The champs had three of the league’s top five scorers (in a five team league) and went on to win the Savage Cup. A few years later the Kamloops Loggers, a Senior AA team won the Coy Cup.
Another Kamloops team, the Chiefs played in the Okanagan Senior Hockey League during the late 1950s. The Chiefs won the Coy Cup in 1963 and 1964 while the Kamloops Rockets, a Junior A team won the Mowat Cup in 1962, 1964 and 1971. In 1973 the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League’s Vancouver Nats relocated to Kamloops. They adopted the Chiefs’ name and featured future NHLers Ryan Walter and Reg Kerr. Unfortunately the twenty-five year old Memorial Arena was too small and the Chiefs moved to Seattle in 1977.
Kamloops’ next team was the B.C. Junior Hockey League’s Braves who were a development team for Major Junior. Future NHLers Andy Moog and Tim Watters started their careers with the Braves who also folded. After the Braves came the Tier 11 Rockets who left Kamloops for Revelstoke this time. Then Kamloops’ big break came in 1981 when the New Westminster Bruins moved north. The Kamloops Junior Oilers were owned by the Edmonton Oilers who soon considered relocating to the prairies. That was when the Kamloops community pride stepped in and raised and borrowed enough money to buy their own team.