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WHL Throwback Thursday: The aura of Friday the 13th

 

To some, Friday the 13 is just another day. To others, it means everything.

To the cautious ones, Friday December 13 is another tick in the ‘Friday the 13th’ phenomenon, which can inspire thoughts of misfortune while steering clear of black cats, mirrors, and ladders.

For the likes of Western Hockey League Alumni Dan Hamhuis, it’s a time to break out the cake as the 36-year-old National Hockey League defenceman celebrates a birthday. More impressively, he’s one of four hockey players in history born on December 13 to appear in 1,100 or more NHL games.

While the correlation does not always equal causation, let’s take a look at some of the more peculiar trends from 2002 and 2013 leading into Friday’s action.

Friday’s action will mark the eighth Friday, December 13 since the league began play in 1966, with the first recorded Friday, December 13 taking place back in 1968. It’ll also mark the 28th ‘Friday the 13th’ to happen during the WHL Pre-season, WHL regular season, or WHL playoffs since the turn of the millennium.

Returning to Friday, December 13, the top goal-scoring performances belong to a trio of Central Division forwards. The Calgary Hitmen can call a pair of those hat tricks their own after Owen Fussey and Brady Brassart lit the lamp three times in 2002 and 2013; respectively. Making it even more interesting, both hat tricks came against the Medicine Hat Tigers, showing that at least some people are comfortable encountering cats on Friday the 13th.

Even weirder, Fussey’s hat trick in 2002 saw him score Calgary’s first, second, and fourth goals in a 5-4 win on the road. In 2013, the Hitmen hosted the Tigers, with Brassart scoring the first, second, and fourth goals of the game in a 7-0 win.

The third hat trick also came in Alberta and forever belongs to Edmonton Oil Kings forward Henrik Samuelsson. In a 7-3 win against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on home ice, Samuelsson scored the fourth, fifth, and seventh goals of the game.

In Saskatchewan, Friday’s action will see the Regina Pats host the Kelowna Rockets and the Saskatoon Blades host the Kamloops Blazers. In what would’ve been a cool twist, the two teams from the province’s largest cities could have met for a third-consecutive Friday, December 13 if they had played tonight. In 2002, the teams played to a 2-2 tie and the Pats earned a 5-3 win back in 2013 with both games taking place in Saskatoon. Of the eight games in 2002 and the nine in 2013, it’s the only matchup to repeat itself.

Despite the 0-1-1 record, there’s a reason for optimism with the Blades heading into tonight’s game. They’ve scored in the opening three minutes of regulation for each game with Warren Peters scoring 1:41 into the game in 2002 and Nikita Scherbak scoring 2:48 into 2013’s game.

Switching gears to Friday the 13th as a whole, the first Friday the 13th since the turn of the century couldn’t have turned out better for a quartet of teams. On October 13, 2000, the Hitmen, Kootenay ICE, Swift Current Broncos and Spokane Chiefs all had players record hat tricks with a pair of those players achieving four-goal games. Layne Ulmer and Pavel Brendl each had three-goal games as the Broncos beat the Blades and the Hitmen downed the Hurricanes.

In Cranbrook, ICE forward Mike Comrie put himself among the evening’s best performances with a four-goal game in a 5-3 win against the Pats. As luck would have it though, he’d wind up without the game-winning goal in the contest. In Spokane, Tim Smith cultivated a strong night on the scoresheet as he potted the first of two four-goal games in his WHL career.

Coincidentally, before tonight’s action starts, the last Friday the 13th to take place in the regular season came in October of 2017 when there was a seven-game schedule of action. As luck would have it, the Spokane Chiefs also played that night, with forward Jake McGrew potting a hat trick of his own in an 8-6 victory against the Victoria Royals.

The Kelowna Rockets won the 2005 WHL Championship on Friday, May 13, 2005.
The Kelowna Rockets won the 2005 WHL Championship on Friday, May 13, 2005.

Luck or no luck on a certain day, teams have remained steadfast in their pursuit to be one of two teams playing in the month of May each year, signifying their success in the pursuit of a WHL Championship.

As the calendar works its magic, three instances of Friday, May 13 have occurred since 2005 with all three falling in the time frame of a WHL Championship Series. In 2005, the day proved fruitful for the Kelowna Rockets, who beat the Brandon Wheat Kings 8-3 to claim their second of four WHL Championships to date.

Six years later, the dates proved valuable for another team within British Columbia as the ICE closed out their third WHL Championship against the Portland Winterhawks. In both cases the series was a five-game battle closed out by the road team.

Teams looking to join the ICE and the Rockets among others will have to plan accordingly. The next Friday, May 13’s take place in 2022, 2033, and 2039!

Stay tuned for the next ‘Friday the 13th’ on March 13, 2020 and the next Friday, December 13 in 2024.

2011_WHL_Champs_group_1

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