Host Blazers looking to capture fourth Memorial Cup on home soil

Brian Liesse

The Kamloops Blazers have been thinking about their Friday night showdown at the Sandman Centre since May 27, 2022, when they were named the host city for the 2023 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.

Now, on May 26, 2023, and on the anniversary of the original announcement, the Blazers will take to the ice in search of their fourth Memorial Cup Championship in franchise history.

While it’s been over two decades since the Blazers were last featured in the Memorial Cup, their storied history of success in the tournament does not run short. Instead, it stretches deep into the Club’s formative years in the WHL.

In 1984 and in just their third season in Kamloops, the Junior Oilers (now Blazers) found themselves Memorial Cup bound, following their first WHL Championship in franchise history — a Game 7 triumph over the Regina Pats. In their first crack at a Memorial Cup Championship, the Kamloops Junior Oilers placed third as they fell to the eventual winners, the Ottawa 67s, in the semifinal.

Despite falling short in their first Memorial Cup appearance, Kamloops didn’t have to wait long to get a second and third opportunity for a title. Their next two entrances into the Memorial Cup came in 1986 and 1990. But, much like their first appearance, the Blazers bowed out in the semifinal and the preliminary round in 1986 and 1990, respectively.

After three attempts, that elusive Memorial Cup triumph continued to slip away from the Blazers.

All that changed in 1992.

Following Kamloops’ fourth WHL Championship, the Blazers headed to Seattle — the host city for the 1992 tournament — with dreams of their first Memorial Cup Championship on the mind.

Led by future Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Darryl Sydor, the Kamloops Blazers captured their first Memorial Cup in franchise history — and in dramatic fashion, of course. The Blazers game-winning goal was scored with 14 seconds remaining in the third period and came off the stick of Inuvik, N.W.T., product, Zac Boyer.

It was the beginning of a Memorial Cup dynasty for the Kamloops Blazers.

In the 1994 and 1995 Memorial Cup tournaments, the Blazers dominated their competition to collect the title in back-to-back years.

Both tournaments saw –with the help of future NHL regulars, Darcy Tucker, Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan – the Blazers post a perfect, 3-0 record in the preliminary rounds, earning automatic entrance into the tournament final in both tournaments.

The championship games were no different, as the Blazers defeated the tournament hosts, the Laval Titan, in 1994, and the OHL Champions, the Detroit Junior Red Wings, in 1995.

However, Kamloops’ third Memorial Cup victory was a little more meaningful than the previous two, as Kamloops — for the first time — was the host for the 1995 tournament.

Now, the current Kamloops Blazers, led by Dallas Stars prospect and hometown product Logan Stankoven and 2023 WHL Defenceman of the Year, Olen Zellweger, hope to follow in the strides of the 1995 Blazers as the city gets ready to host their second Memorial Cup.

The upcoming tournament is also of significance to Blazers’ associate coach and Kamloops product, Don Hay, as this will mark the eighth time Hay has attended the Memorial Cup. The two-time WHL Coach of the Year (1999, 2009), and seven-time WHL Champion will also look to capture his fifth Memorial Cup title. His previous four accolades came in 1992, 1994, and 1995 with the Blazers and 2007 with the Vancouver Giants.

Kamloops’ road to the Memorial Cup will begin on Friday, May 26, when they take on the QMJHL Champions, the Quebec Remparts, in the opening game of the tournament.

The 2023 Memorial Cup Presented by Kia will run from May 26 to June 4 and each game will be broadcast on TSN and RDS in Canada as well as on NHL Network in the United States. Viewers from outside North America can watch live online on CHL TV.

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