It is Wonder Woman’s birthday today (April 9). If you have been following her story over the past 18 months, you know that she really is our Wonder Woman. She’s not on Twitter or Facebook, but feel free to send her birthday greetings at email@example.com. . . . I know she’ll yell at me for doing this, but it’ll be worth it to see the look on her face when she checks her email.
A week ago it was the playoffs. Now I am selling these on the street. Tough one. pic.twitter.com/wVGUe5smQ3
— Steve Hamilton (@hamilton_steve)
The Medicine Hat Tigers aren’t much for bragging, but what they have accomplished of late is worth examining.
At the turn of the century, the Tigers were — let’s be honest — a mess.
In four straight seasons (1993-97), the Tigers won 29, 33, 38 and 30 games, enough to get them into the playoffs each season. But in those playoffs, they went 2-15 and were first-round losers each time.
But that was nothing compared to what awaited them.
You may recall that the Tigers missed the playoffs in each of the next five seasons (1997-2002), winning 16, 15, 21, 24 and 30 regular-season games.
Obviously, though, management used that time to settle on a plan, put it into action, and see it through. The right people were hired and put into place and allowed to do whatever it is that they do best.
The results have been terrific.
The Tigers are in the playoffs now for a 13th straight season. In those 13 springs, they have left in the first round on only one occasion — in 2008, after going 43-22-7, they were bounced in five games by the Kootenay Ice. That was hardly an upset, though, as the Central Division featured four teams with more than 90 regular-season points. The Calgary Hitmen finished first, with 47 victories and 99 points, followed by the Lethbridge Hurricane (45 and 96), Medicine Hat (43 and 93) and Kootenay (42 and 92).
Six times in those 13 seasons, the Tigers have gone out in the second round. They have lost the Eastern Conference final on three occasions. Twice, in 2004 and 2007, the Tigers won the WHL championship.
On Friday, they will be at home as they open a second-round series with the Hitmen.
Since shaking off the black cloud, the Tigers have come to be known as a team that plays the game the right way. They love to deploy a fleet of small, skilled forwards who love nothing more than to forecheck an opponent into submission. They employ defencemen with size who can move the puck. And for three seasons now their last line of defence has been Czech goaltender Marek Langhamer. If the CHL doesn’t come to its senses and drop the embargo, Langhamer is destined to be the answer to a trivia question — who was the last European goaltender to play in the WHL?
Still, no matter what happens over the rest of these WHL playoffs, it is obvious that Medicine Hat, which will vacate the Arena and move into the new Regional Event Centre in time for next season, has become one of the WHL’s model franchises.
It isn’t as easy as one might think to get at least into the second round of the WHL playoffs with any kind of regularity. With the Medicine Hat Tigers in the playoffs for a 13th straight season and into the second round for a seventh straight spring, here’s a look at the 22 teams and their active streaks (consecutive seasons in playoffs, followed by consecutive seasons into at least the second round):
Brandon, 2 and 2.
Calgary, 4 and 1.
Edmonton, 5 and 0.
Everett, 12 and 1.
Kamloops, 0 and 0.
Kelowna, 8 and 3.
Kootenay, 17 and 0.
Lethbridge, 0 and 0.
Medicine Hat, 13 and 7.
Moose Jaw, 0 and 0.
Portland, 6 and 6.
Prince Albert, 0 and 0.
Prince George, 1 and 0.
Red Deer, 1 and 0.
Regina, 2 and 1.
Saskatoon, 0 and 0.
Seattle, 3 and 0.
Spokane, 9 and 0.
Swift Current, 3 and 0.
Tri-City, 12 and 0.
Vancouver, 0 and 0.
Victoria, 6 and 2.
F Liam Stewart of the Spokane Chiefs has a shoulder injury so won’t play for Great Britain in the IIHF Division I Group B World champoinship in Eindhoven, Netherlands. That tournament runs from April 13-19. . . . Great Britain has added F Craig Peacock of the Belfast Giants to fill the spot meant for Stewart, 20. “Liam is so disappointed not to be coming but he has picked up a shoulder injury,” Pete Russell, Great Britain’s head coach, is quoted as saying at icehockeyuk.co.uk. “He has just had a really intense playoff series, including (Tuesday) night’s game which went to triple overtime, and his injury means he will not be able to travel. It is a shame for the lad but I am sure his time will come again in the future.”
Three players from the Kootenay Ice were reassigned by NHL teams on Tuesday, two days after the team’s season ended. . . . F Sam Reinhart is off to the Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. Reinhart, the second overall pick in the NHL’s 2014 draft, opened the season by playing nine games with Buffalo. He went on to help Canada win the 2015 World Junior Championship. In 47 regular-season games with the Ice, he had 65 points, including 19 goals. . . . F Tim Bozon was sent by the Montreal Canadiens to their AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Bozon, who has used up his junior eligibility, was a third-round pick by the Canadiens in the 2012 NHL draft and he has signed with Montreal. This season, Bozon had 63 points, including 35 goals, in 57 regular-season games. . . . D Rinat Valiev will join the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Valiet, who turns 20 on May 11, was selected by the Maple Leafs in the third round of the NHL’s 2014 draft. He had 46 points, nine of them goals, in 52 regular-season games with the Ice this season. He also played for Russia at the 2015 World Junior Championship. . . . F Jaedon Descheneau of the Ice, who was fifth-round pick by the St. Louis Blues in the NHL’s 2014 draft, is joining the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. He has yet to sign with the Blues. This season he had 81 points, 34 of them goals, in 70 games this season.
A CHL team filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday. Yes, it was the team for which the highly touted Connor McDavid plays.
“The Erie Otters filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, a move owner Sherry Bassin insisted would not affect the Ontario Hockey League team’s immediate future,” wrote Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press. “Bassin said Erie Hockey Club Limited filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a way to prevent Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz’s Ontario Major Junior Hockey Corporation from holding its own private sale of the Otters and their assets. Bassin still plans to sell the team and pay off creditors, including Katz, but said filing was necessary to protect the organization.”
Whyno’s story is right here.
The Otters open a second-round series tonight against the London Knights. That series features McDavid against the Knights’ Max Domi. Should be a good one.———
D Kyle Burroughs of the Medicine Hat Tigers has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the NHL’s New York Islanders. Burroughs, 19, was a seventh-round pick by the Islanders in the NHL’s 2013 draft. The Tigers acquired him from the Regina Pats in January. He finished the regular-season with 39 points, including seven goals, in 66 games. . . .
F Brandon Baddock of the Edmonton Oil Kings has signed an ATO with the Albany Devils, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Baddock, who turned 20 on March 29, had 40 points, 19 of them goals, in 71 games with the Oil Kings this season. He was a sixth-round pick by the Devils in the 2014 NHL draft, but has yet to sign with them. . . .
The AJHL’s Canmore Eagles have hired Barry Sawchuk as their head scout. Andrew Milne, the Eagle’s general manager, made the announcement earlier this week. Sawchuk, who spent the past two seasons has the head scout for the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats, takes over from Jason Rycroft. Rycroft has been named the Eagles’ executive assistant responsible for player development. . . .
The Red Deer Rebels are poised to announce the signing of F Austin Pratt, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. Troy Gillard (@Troy_Gillard) tweeted Wednesday that Pratt “will be here Friday from Minnesota to sign with the club.” . . . The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Pratt is from Lakeville, Minn. The Rebels drafted him after he played for the bantam Tier 1 at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. This season, he put up 52 points, including 20 goals, in 55 games with Shattuck St. Mary’s U-16 midget team.
Kevin Constantine’s full-page diving rant: $0
— Scott Sepich (@SSepich)