Welcome to WHL On This Day, where we look day at notable accomplishments of Western Hockey League Alumni. On Tuesday and Thursdays, we’ll breakdown some of the best moments to take place on that specific day in WHL history, adding context to the rest of their season and career. Be sure to share your favourite moments from a specific day on social media using #WHLOTD!
1978 – Randy Irving, New Westminster Bruins
Winning four-straight WHL Championships from 1975 to 1978 and Memorial Cups in 1977 and 1978, the New Westminster Bruins were the WHL’s top team for the later part of the 1970s. To aid in their push for the fourth and final WHL Championship in the 1977-78 WHL season, the team recruited a 19-year-old Randy Irving to their club after he had played a pair of regular season games with them during the 1976-77 WHL Regular Season. Irving went on to record 73 points (31G-42A) in 72 games during the 1977-78 WHL Regular Season to tie for fourth in team scoring. As other teams challenged the Bruins for the title of the WHL’s top team, Irving and the Bruins found another gear in the 1978 WHL Playoffs to reach the WHL Championship Series yet again.
On April 30, 1978, Irving scored the game-winning goal in a 3-1 win for the Bruins as they completed a four-game sweep of the Billings Bighorns in the 1978 WHL Championship Series. Irving had yet to score in the series before he scored the middle of three third-period goals for the Bruins. Bruins’ captain Stan Smyl would hoist the WHL Championship trophy shortly thereafter.
Irving would play professionally in the United States until the 1989-90 season. Playing with the Carolina Thunderbirds and Winston-Salem Thunderbirds, Irving played throughout the ECHL’s first two years of existence. As fortune would have it, Irving and his teams would capture the Riley Cup, later renamed the Kelly Cup, as ECHL league champions in the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons.
1991 – Ray Whitney, Spokane Chiefs
The 1990-91 season for the Spokane Chiefs will forever be remembered in Eastern Washington and in the mind of Ray Whitney. Having recorded 113 points (57G-56A) in 71 games the season before, Whitney’s third season with the Chiefs saw him take on a greater offensive role. For the 1990-91 season, he significantly improved on that performance with 185 points (67G-118A) in 72 games, earning the title of the WHL’s Top Scorer as well as the WHL Player of the Year Award. He then helped lead the Chiefs to their first WHL Championship appearance where they faced the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
On April 30, 1991, Whitney scored in overtime of Game 3 of the 1991 WHL Championship Series. The series shifted to southern Alberta with the Chiefs winning Games 1 and 2 south of the 49th parallel. In the third game of the best-of-seven series, a four-goal second period put the visitors up 5-3 but the Hurricanes stormed back with a pair of goals in the third to force overtime. That’s where Whitney ended things, giving the Chiefs a 3-0 lead in the series. The following night, Whitney provided six points in the championship-clinching game. The Chiefs also later won the 1991 Memorial Cup.
Later that year, Whitney was selected in the second round, 23rd overall, of the 1991 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks. Playing in 1,330 NHL regular season games, Whitney recorded 1,064 points (385G-679A) between the Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes, and Dallas Stars. In the 2005-06 season, he won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes.
1997 – Mike Josephson, Lethbridge Hurricanes
While the Lethbridge Hurricanes suffered back-to-back WHL Championship Series losses in the early 1990s, the third time was a charm during the 1996-97 WHL season. Led by the likes of Byron Ritchie, Chris Phillips, and Shane Wills, Mike Josephson also played a key role in the team’s success that season. A WHL Champion and Memorial Cup Champion with the Kamloops Blazers in 1994, he was acquired by the Hurricanes during the 1994-95 WHL Regular Season. As an overager during the 1996-97 WHL season, he recorded 71 points (32G-39A) in 57 games to rank fifth in team scoring.
On April 30, 1997, Josephson scored the game-winning goal in a 5-1 win to complete a four-game sweep of the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 1997 WHL Championship Series. The lone goal of the second period in Game 4, it marked Josephson’s 10th and final goal of the 1997 WHL Playoffs as he finished with 15 points (10G-5A) through 19 games.
Josephson would conclude his WHL career with 233 points (103G-130A) in 287 WHL regular season games. A product of Victoria, B.C., he last played with the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings during the 2005-06 season.
2017 – Jeff de Wit, Regina Pats
The 2016-17 Regina Pats approached the 2017 WHL Trade Deadline looking to strengthen their team as they made plans for a strong run in the 2017 WHL Playoffs. On the day of the deadline itself they executed a blockbuster deal with the Red Deer Rebels, acquiring defenceman Josh Mahura and forward Jeff de Wit from the Red Deer Rebels. The pair would play a key role throughout the Pats’ run to close out the season as champions of the 2016-17 WHL Regular Season and the top seed for the 2017 WHL Playoffs.
On April 30, 2017, de Wit scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Championship, propelling his side to the 2017 WHL Championship Series. Down 4-2 late in the second period, the Pats reeled off five-unanswered goals to take hold of the game and capture the series. Tied 4-4 entering the third period, de Wit began the scoring in the final frame with his fourth goal of the 2017 WHL Playoffs.
After beginning his WHL career with his hometown Red Deer Rebels, de Wit would play for the Pats, Victoria Royals, and Kootenay ICE in his WHL career. He closed out his WHL career with a return to the Rebels for the 2018-19 WHL season. Recording 116 points (57G-59A) in 313 WHL regular season games, de Wit began to utilize his WHL Scholarship at Concordia University during the 2019-20 season.