Tuesday, 12 September 2017

#CanesOTD - 30 Years Since Pre-Season Game #1

"If you're talking Memorial Cup or league championship, that's not our goal.  We want to prove we're here (in Lethbridge) to stay and to work hard."

Those were the words from Lethbridge Hurricanes head coach Glen Hawker, ahead of the team's first regular season game in team history.

The history of the club is a mystery to no one.  After hosting the Broncos from 1974 to 1986, the club was moved to Swift Current.  The WHL took a one-year hiatus from the 'Bridge, before moving the Calgary Wranglers ahead of the 1987-1988 season.

This week marks the 30-year anniversary of the team's first pre-season game.

Listen to the first episode of the season, including the audio version of this blog, below.


The Hurricanes saw 126 players show up for their initial weekend rookie camp in late-August.  Hawker told the Lethbridge Herald in the Aug. 31, 1987 edition that he was expecting somewhere between 70 and 100 to show up.

"We had to scramble a little bit, but we had accommodations," Hawker said.  "The people out here made plans just in case."

"I was very happy with our young players, they were excellent," Hawker continued, not getting specific.  "Those are kids who aren't really eligible to play this year.  We're looking towards the future with them."  

Two weeks later, the Hurricanes had enough of battling each other and were ready for game action.

"Some players are getting the itch to get into a game situation," Hawker said on Sept. 12.  "Some of the younger ones want to get playing while some of the veterans can't wait for the regular season to start."

The plan was to play many of the young players in Medicine Hat against the Tigers, while letting the veterans have the day off.


The trouble was, Hawker didn't get to see and evaluate many of his rookies.

"About 20 players from both teams departed early in the wide-open, fight-filled exhibition contest," Dave Sulz of the Lethbridge Herald reported.  "Each team finished the game with just eight available skaters as a result of game misconducts."

"The game ended in fitting fashion - with a fight following the final horn."

And on Sept. 13, 1987, the final horn blew on the first pre-season game and victory for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

The final score: Hurricanes 11, Tigers 7.

That's not a typo.  Kelly Ens and Kevin Heise had three-goal games for the Hurricanes, while Bryan Bosch added a pair.  Terry Baustad, Steve Young and Mark Bassen added singles.  The Tigers got goals from  Mark Woolf, Rod Williams, Jason Miller, Kalvin Knibbs, Wayne Hynes and Vince Boe.  It was the start of a 4-0 preseason for the Canes.  But it wouldn't last. 

The difference between the two teams would show during the regular season though, as the Tigers would benefit from the return of several players from NHL camps like Mark Pederson, Rob Dimaio, Dean Chynoweth, Wayne McBean and Mark Fitzpatrick and win their second-straight WHL championship and second-straight Memorial Cup.

The Hurricanes went on to finish their inaugural season in Lethbridge at 28-40-4, just out of the East Division playoff picture.  Bosch led the team in points (55) while Ens paced the team in goals (27).  They were a young team on the rise.  Two years later, the Hurricanes were heading to their first WHL championship.

Humble beginnings need to start somewhere.

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