Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Kamloops Blazers - 1992-95
One on One Turning Point

Kamloops Blazers - 1992-95

20 MAY 2014
Kamloops Blazers defenceman Scott Niedermayer was named the MVP of the 1992 Memorial Cup leading his team to the title with a 5-4 win over the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Through the long, storied history of junior hockey in North America, few teams can claim to have enjoyed a dynasty, but with three Memorial Cup victories in four seasons in the early 1990s, the Kamloops Blazers can certainly take pride in making this claim.

In 1991-92, coach Tom Renney and his Kamloops Blazers hoped and prayed for the return of Scott Niedermayer, who had originally joined the Blazers in 1989-90, and in November, their prayers came true when the NHL's New Jersey Devils returned the talented defenceman to his junior club. Then, in January 1992, the Los Angeles Kings decided to send Darryl Sydor, another outstanding defenceman who had been with Kamloops since 1988-89, back to junior for seasoning.

The two joined a team already loaded with future National Hockey League players. Goaltender Corey Hirsch had been a Blazer since 1988-89, as had forward Zac Boyer. Forwards Jarrett Deuling, Tyson Nash and Ed Patterson had joined the team in 1990-91, as had defenceman Scott Ferguson. And that season, Kamloops had introduced an outstanding crop of new players, including forwards Ryan Huska, Chris Murray and Darcy Tucker and blueliner David Wilkie.

Western Hockey League President Ed Chynoweth awards the President's Cup to Darryl Sydor of the Kamloops Blazers after capturing the 1992 WHL Championship. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Blazers finished first in the Western Hockey League's West Division with a sparkling record of 51 wins, 17 losses and four ties. Zac Boyer led the team in scoring with 40 goals and 69 assists for 109 points, which was seventh-best in the WHL.

In the playoffs, Kamloops eliminated the Tacoma Rockets and the Seattle Thunderbirds, and then edged the Saskatoon Blades in seven games to win the Western Hockey League championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament for the fourth time in nine seasons.

The Memorial Cup tournament, hosted by Seattle, was comprised of the WHL champion Blazers, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (winners of the Ontario Hockey League), Verdun College Francais (the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions), and the Thunderbirds as the host team.

Gloves worn by Darcy Tucker of the WHL's Kamloops Blazers as they captured the 1995 Memorial Cup championship with an 8-2 victory over the OHL's Detroit Jr. Red Wings.
(Hockey Hall of Fame)
Kamloops doubled the Greyhounds 6-3, blanked Verdun 4-0 and topped Seattle 3-1. In the semi-final, the Blazers dumped Seattle 8-3 to earn a spot in the Memorial Cup championship contest against Sault Ste. Marie. The game was extremely tight, and looked as though it would go to overtime with the teams knotted at four, but with 14.6 seconds remaining in regulation, Zac Boyer scored to give Kamloops a 5-4 victory...and the Memorial Cup championship.

Niedermayer was awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the tournament's most valuable player. Corey Hirsch was awarded the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy as the best goaltender in the series. Both were named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team, joined by teammate Mike Mathers at left wing.

Jarome Iginla captured two Memorial Cup titles (1994 and 1995) as a member of the Kamloops Blazers. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
"I learned a lot at that time, not only from the coaches but from the players I played with as well," stated Niedermayer. "It's amazing, really, the progression from playing Bantam to two years later, getting drafted. I was fortunate to go as a 16-year-old. Ken Hitchcock (coach at that time) made a little presentation, encouraging me and my parents to let me go to Kamloops. What won us over was the quality of the organization they had built. Making it to the Memorial Cup my first year in the league (1989-90) was a pretty amazing experience, and then winning it all in Seattle in '92 was outstanding. Kamloops was a great place for me to learn more about the game."

With the victory, Niedermayer had played his final game of junior, but went out with a flourish. His number 28 would later be retired by the Kamloops Blazers to commemorate his contributions to the team over three seasons. "It's pretty special," he commented. "It means a lot."

The Blazers lost a great deal of their core for 1992-93 as Boyer, Hirsch, Niedermayer and Sydor moved on in their hockey careers, but were ably replaced by future NHL defencemen Nolan Baumgartner, Jason Holland and Brad Lukowich, forwards Hnat Domenichelli and Shane Doan and in goal, the Blazers picked up WHL veteran Steve Passmore. Don Hay replaced Tom Renney as the head coach in Kamloops.

The team finished third in the West Division, with a record of 48 wins, 28 losses and three ties. Mike Mathers fired 52 goals and 56 assists for 108 points to lead the team and place tenth in the WHL.

The Blazers knocked off Seattle in the first round of the playoffs, and then shut out the Spokane Chiefs. But facing the Portland Winter Hawks in the Conference Final, the Blazers quest to repeat as Memorial Cup champions was stymied when they were eliminated in five games.

With most of the roster returning in 1993-94, the Blazers looked poised to compete with the league leaders. They also added rookies Jarome Iginla, Cam Severson and Jason Strudwick at forward; all of whom went on to play in the NHL.

Along with Darcy Tucker and Ryan Huska, Tyson Nash was part of all three Memorial Cup titles with the Kamloops Blazers in 1992, 1994 and 1995. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Blazers started slowly, and by mid-November were just a .500 team, but after spanking the first-place Portland Winter Hawks 9-0, Kamloops went on a tear, winning 29 consecutive home games and setting a WHL record. And early in that run, the City of Kamloops learned that they would host the 1995 Memorial Cup tournament.

The Blazers finished the season with 50 wins against 16 losses and six ties to finish first in the West Division for the ninth time in eleven seasons. Darcy Tucker led Kamloops in scoring during the season with 52 goals and 88 assists for 140 points, a total good for second overall in the WHL.

In the post-season, the Blazers defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Portland Winter Hawks to set up a league final against the Saskatoon Blades. Saskatoon presented a great challenge and took the series to a seventh and deciding game. Kamloops turned up their effort several notches, though, and crushed the Blades with a decisive 8-1 victory.

The Memorial Cup tournament was played in Laval, Quebec in 1994, with the host Titans joined by Kamloops from the WHL, the North Bay Centennials of the OHL and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL.

Kamloops went undefeated, beating Laval 5-4, shut out Chicoutimi 5-0 and dumped North Bay by a 5-1 score. Earning a bye to the final, the Blazers met Laval and won the Memorial Cup with an exciting 5-3 victory.

Darcy Tucker was the tournament MVP, winning the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy. He was also named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team at centre, joined by a Blazers-laden squad that included Nolan Baumgartner and Aaron Keller on defence and Rod Stevens at right wing.

The Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers captured the 1994 Memorial Cup title with a 5-3 win over the QMJHL's Laval Titan. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Could the Kamloops Blazers repeat in 1994-95? With most of its Memorial Cup roster returning, there were few changes that needed to be made, so the prospect of a third championship in four years seemed more than plausible. Jarrett Deuling, Scott Ferguson and David Wilkie all graduated, as did goaltender Steve Passmore, who was replaced by back-up Rod Branch. The forwards were bolstered by the addition of Rob Skrlac, who, like so many, later advanced to the NHL.

The team was ranked number one in the Canadian Hockey League from the opening faceoff of the season, and stayed lodged at the top all season long. The Blazers were once again led by Darcy Tucker, who finished second overall in league scoring with a sensational total of 64 goals, 73 assists and 137 points. Kamloops finished first in the West, collecting 52 wins, just 14 losses and added six ties. It was the franchise's tenth West Division title in twelve seasons, and their seventh time in eleven years topping the entire Western Hockey League.

In the playoffs, Kamloops defeated Portland in five games, Tri-City in six and the Brandon Wheat Kings in six. While these triumphs alone would have ensured the Blazers a spot in the Memorial Cup tournament, they had previously been granted a berth as the host team. The Wheat Kings were added from the WHL, the Detroit Junior Red Wings represented the OHL and the Hull Olympiques rounded out the competitors as the QMJHL champions.

The Blazers went 3-0 in the round robin, beating Hull 4-1, Detroit 5-4 and Brandon 6-4 to earn a bye to the Memorial Cup final where they again faced the Junior Red Wings. Kamloops collected a convincing Memorial Cup win by smashing Detroit 8-2 to complete their hugely successful season.

The Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers captured the 1995 Memorial Cup with a 8-2 win over the Ontario Hockey League's Detroit Jr. Red Wings. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Shane Doan was named recipient of the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the Memorial Cup's most valuable player, and Jarome Iginla was named the tournament's most sportsmanlike player, earning the George Parsons Trophy. Doan and Darcy Tucker were named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team at forward, joined by teammate Nolan Baumgartner on the blueline.

It was a season that will be remembered by Blazers fans forever. "Winning at home was a great feeling," said Darcy Tucker.

Junior hockey enthusiasts consider the period of 1991-92 to 1994-95 as a dynasty, and with good reason. The Memorial Cup is the most challenging of all hockey trophies to win, and because junior careers are so short, franchises go through natural peaks and valleys as they win and then rebuild, but the Blazers were able to reinvent themselves in extraordinary fashion.

"It was pretty unusual (for the Blazers to win three Memorial Cup championships in four seasons) because junior championships are tough to win -- maybe the toughest of all to win -- but especially to win multiple times," added Tucker. "But they were all different; all unique in their own way. The first time we won (in 1992) was with a veteran team, and a really good defence with (Darryl) Sydor and (Scott) Niedermayer. We had Corey Hirsch in net and we had a bunch of up-and-coming kids. We weren't expected to win the second one (in 1993-94). We weren't even expected to be there, but sometimes, there's a kind of destiny. We had a bunch of young guys full of piss and vinegar, and we took on the world. It was a coming-out party for Shane (Doan) and Jarome (Iginla). It put them on the map. And then in '95, we had been ranked number one (in the CHL) from start to finish. Everybody knew that to beat us would be the ultimate. To go wire-to-wire was pretty unbelievable."

Tucker, as well as teammates Ryan Huska and Tyson Nash, were members of all three championships for Kamloops, establishing a record for most Memorial Cup victories by a player. And the Blazers set a record for most Memorial Cup appearances by a franchise with ten -- four as the New Westminster Bruins (1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978) in the Blazers' earlier incarnation, and another six as the Kamloops Blazers (1984, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1995). The franchise also holds the record for most Memorial Cup victories by a WHL team, winning it all in 1977 and 1978 as the New Westminster Bruins and then adding the Kamloops Blazers' triumphs of 1992, 1994 and 1995.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.