Monday, 26 May 2008

Cross-Border Cup

The 2008 Mastercard CHL Memorial Cup came to a close yesterday, and the final game featured the two best hockey teams in Canadian major junior hockey this season as the Kitchener Rangers squared off against the Spokane Chiefs. The hometown Rangers eliminated their OHL rivals on Friday night with a 9-0 thrashing of the Belleville Bulls, while the Spokane Chiefs earned the bye to the final by going 3-0 in the round-robin. Spokane's third win came against the Gatineau Olympiques, and sent the QMJHL champions home with an 0-3 record.

The game started out with an early Kitchener goal from Brandon Mashinter at the 5:01 mark of the first period. However, that suffocating defensive play by Spokane began to pick up momentum. Levko Koper, Tyler Johnson and Justin McCrae applied incredible pressure on the Rangers' top scoring line of Matt Halischuk, Justin Azevedo and Nick Spaling, and the Chiefs followed with some inspired play.

At the 16:10 mark of the first period, the Chiefs tied the game on the powerplay with a goal by Judd Blackwater. Spokane then took the lead just 4:11 into the second period as Drayson Bowman put the puck past Rangers' goaltender Josh Unice. 1:01 later, Trevor Glass made it 3-1 with another powerplay goal. Jared Cowen iced the game at the 19:04 mark of the third period with an empty net goal.

The Chiefs simply weathered the storm that the Rangers brought, but it was one heck of a storm they faced. The Rangers outshot the Chiefs 53-22 throughout the game. Chiefs' goaltender Dustin Tokarski, who is eligible for this year's draft, stopped 52 shots, including 25 in the third period, to help Spokane become only the fourth American-based team to win the Memorial Cup. The Chiefs were an amazing 41-3 this season when leading after two periods of play.

Congratulations go out to the Spokane Chiefs, the CHL's 2008 Memorial Cup champions. Congratulations to their owners as well, Mr. Bobby Brett and Mr. George Brett. Yes, that George Brett of the Kansas City Royals - twelve-time MLB all-star and Hall-of-Fame third baseman.

So you're probably saying, "Wait a second... how did George Brett get into CHL hockey". I can tell you he wasn't drafted like another well-known ball player. This isn't Baseball Blog In Canada, but here's how the Hall-of-Famer became the owner of two Memorial Cup rings.

The Brett family purchased the team before the 1990-1991 season. The Chiefs went on to win their first Memorial Cup that year, taking home the 1991 championship. However, baseball was always huge in the Brett household, and the hockey interest actually came from George's brother, Bobby.

Bobby was a regular at Los Angeles Kings games before the team went "showtime" with the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1988.

"My brother Bobby always liked hockey," Mr. Brett said to Patrick King of "He was the first one of anyone I knew that had season tickets to the Kings games and obviously when Gretzky came to L.A. everyone wanted tickets but my brother had them before so his tickets became very, very valuable."

George Brett hadn't really seen a lot of hockey in his days while playing baseball, but he immediately took to the most-recognizable aspect of hockey - the violence.

"When I first started following it, I was more interested in a fight to happen but I think the more you watch hockey and understand how the game's played," he said, "fights don't turn you on as much as they used to."

With the win on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Brett will have an additional ring to add to his already decorated hand, and I'm sure he's proud of the men wearing the Chiefs' jerseys.

Just to give all of you a heads-up for next season, the 2009 Mastercard Memorial Cup will be held in Rimouski, Quebec.

Detroit and Pittsburgh is just starting, so I'm gone. Congratulations to all the teams in this past weekend's Memorial Cup, and especially to the Spokane Chiefs! More hockey info coming up this week as the AHL Calder Cup Final gets underway, and the ECHL Kelly Cup continues.

Happy Memorial Day to all the good people in the United States! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Sage Confucius said...

I hate that I'm missing the game. I'm at work and will be until 7am CDT. Listening to the game on the radio just isn't the same as watching it on TV. However, if you'd like to reconsider your pick for the Cup winner I would understand. The Wings sound like they look good. :| And if one more Penguin slugs Franzen upside the head I'm going to take a road trip and smack someone. That's just wrong when you know some guy has been having concussion issues. Play rough, but stop the cheap shots.