Bob Brown was the architect of one of the best teams in Canadian junior hockey history, so without question he has some good memories of his days in Kamloops.
Brown, former general manager of the Blazers, won three Memorial Cups during his 10 seasons there, and also helped get the franchise to a pair of appearances in the cup tournament before first winning it all in 1992.
“Kamloops had been to the Mem Cup three times prior to that, in the mid-80s, and lost in all three,” Brown recalled. “I was there for two of those, so the knock was on Kamloops that we couldn’t win the cup.”
Win they did — in 1992 and also 1994 and 1995.
It was a dynasty. The ‘95 squad was the seventh team in Memorial Cup history to win back-to-back titles, but first to earn three championships in the span of just four years. Coached by Don Hay, that edition of the Blazers featured tournament MVP Shane Doan along with stars such as Jarome Iginla, Darcy Tucker, Tyson Nash and Ryan Huska.
Not suprisingly, the squad was a top-four finalist in a Team of the Century fan-vote contest, as part of last week’s 100th edition of the Mastercard Memorial Cup, won Sunday (May 27) by Acadie-Bathurst Titan in a 3-0 victory over Regina Pats.
The CHL’s Team of the Century vote result was announced during the game’s second intermission, and the title went to the Corey Perry-led 2005 London Knights.
Still, Brown’s Blazers were a strong contender.
“To me, it was a special team, no question,” Brown said last week, “and to be nominated even in the top 10 would be pretty good, because there were a lot of great teams over the years, some pretty good players.
“Winning three like that is pretty unique, and not easy to do,” he added. “Everything has to fall into place.”
Today, Brown lives in the Fraser Heights area of Surrey and has spent the past 17 years working as an amateur scout for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. He and his wife, radio reporter Janet Brown, have a son named Sam who plays minor hockey in Cloverdale and also for a spring team called the Kryptoknights, and the Browns are there for all the games.
In 1995, Brown watched his Blazers take the Mem Cup on home ice, after winning all of their games during the tournament. They capped an incredible season with an 8-2 victory over Detroit Jr. Red Wings to win that third cup.
Things didn’t look good at one point, however.
“You look at the playoffs in the WHL final, we were playing Brandon and lost our first two games at home, then we went there and won three in a row and came home and won Game 6 to take it,” Brown recalled. “When we were down two-nothing to Brandon, Hayser (coach Hay) decided to go with a 16-year-old goaltender, Randy Petruk. He was a good one and got us through to the MC, he was that good.”
The rest of the team was pretty good, too.
“You look at the players on the ‘95 team, I don’t know exactly how many went to play in the NHL but it was eight or nine of them — good ones, too, including almost the whole defense ending up going to the NHL,” Brown said. “And then up front you had Doan, Iginla, Tucker, Hnat Domenichelli, who had a good career in Europe, guys like that. What put that team over the top is, we needed a bit of maturity at the top end, from grit and leadership, and (Keith) McCambridge was a defenseman we brought in, and Ashley Buckberger, who was captain in Swift (Current), and we made a trade with them. We gave up quite a few young players to bring those guys, but we just needed to go over the top for that third one.”
In fact, 10 players from that Blazers team went on to play in the NHL, including Iginla, Nash, Doan, Tucker, Huska, Domenichelli, Nolan Baumgartner, Brad Lukowich, Jason Strudwick and Jason Holland.
Earlier, for the Tom Renney-coached ‘92 cup run, Brown also brought to Kamloops players including Scott Niedermayer, Daryl Sydor and Corey Hirsh.
”The ‘92 team was a pretty good team, but maybe not with the star power we had in ’95,” Brown related. “It was a tough win, with a winning goal in the final against Sault Ste. Marie, and they still talk about that goal. You know, Neidermeyer’s going up the ice, loses the puck with, like, 30 seconds to go, and the play’s going the other way, he chases the guy going back and he drop-passes the puck thinking it’s his guy. Eddie Patterson leaves the ice and Zac Boyer jumps on, Neidermeyer hits him with a breakaway pass, 14 seconds left, it’s in the net, winning goal. And it was probably one of the most physical games I’d ever seen. Sydor was pasted to the end wall about 10 times by this one guy who played for them — they had a good team. Every time I see someone from the Sault, old scouts or whoever, they bring it up that we stole that one, and we probably did.”
— Kamloops Blazers (@blazerhockey) May 17, 2017
During his time in Kamloops, Brown twice won the WHL Executive of the Year award, and was GM of the team when son Rob Brown played there in the mid-1980s before going on to score 438 points in the NHL, most of those with Pittsburgh Penguins.
The ‘94-‘95 Blazers were inducted into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013, and Brown himself was given that honour in 2009. The team was also inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame a couple of years ago.
”The majority of the (‘94-‘95) guys were back for that, so it was good to see them,” Brown remembered. “I follow the kids — they’re not kids now, of course, and some of them have kids playing, and I have scouted those, you know. I got out before the grandkids came, because it’s not that far away,” he added with a laugh.
Although his contract with the Oilers is up at the end of June, Brown would still like to “do something in hockey. I’ve talked to a couple of people who’ve approached me, so we’ll see what happens here,” he added.
Follow Brown at Twitter.com/badboybobbybrow.