Monday, July 19, 2010
July by the Numbers travels to western Canada for Jersey #19.
The Western Hockey League was founded in 1966 and consisted of seven teams in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Currently, membership has grown to 22 clubs in not only Saskatchewan and Alberta, but also Manitoba and British Columbia in Canada and teams in Washington and Oregon in the United States.
The league began to grow and expand, attracting more and more clubs and sending players such as Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach to the NHL only helped it's credibility. It eventually expanded all the way west to Vancouver and then even south into the United States. The "outlaw" league was then recognized by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and allowed to compete for the Memorial Cup, the national junior hockey championship decided annually between the champions of the WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League plus the tournament's host club, beginning in 1970.
The first WHL team to win the Memorial Cup was the Regina Pats in 1974, followed by New Westminster Bruins back to back in 1977 and 1978. Five more championships followed in the 1980's before the Kamloops Blazers took three between 1992 and 1995. Portland added their second in 1998 to give the WHL a total of four in the 1990's. Another five in the 2000's brought the league total to 18 in the 40 years they've been eligible.
The Kootenay Ice were originally formed in 1996 as the Edmonton Ice and the franchise relocated to Cranbrook, British Columbia two seasons later.
In only their second season in Cranbrook, the club finished with the second best regular season in the WHL and swept Red Deer in four, downed Swift Current in six before defeating Calgary in five to advance to the WHL championship where they were to meet Spokane.
After dropping the first two games at home, Kootenay was given little hope by many, but they responded by taking the next to on the road in Spokane to even the series at 2-2. With momentum on their side, the Ice won game five at home and clinched the title with a 1-0 win back in Spokane.
Two seasons later in 2001-02, Kootenay again made the WHL playoffs, and followed a familiar pattern, losing their first two first round games at home to the Prince George Cougars. They again rebounded, this time winning three consecutive games in Prince George, outscoring them 15-5 in the three games. The Cougars forced a Game 7 but Kootenay advanced with a 5-1 win in the deciding game.
The Ice then went on a run, winning four straight over Seattle and four of five over Kelowna to return to the WHL championship finals. There, they prevailed in a close, hard-fought struggle against Red Deer, with Game 1 going to Kootenay on the road in overtime. Game 2 went in favor of Red Deer 2-1. Kootenay took Game 3 in overtime 3-2 only to lose Game 4 by the same score to tie the series at 2-2. A 4- 3 win for the Ice back in Red Deer put Kootenay in position to win the title with one more victory, which they managed to accomplish with a 3-2 win in double overtime of Game 6. Each of the six games were decided by a single goal, with three of the six games going to overtime.
Kootenay then advanced to the Memorial Cup playoffs thanks to their WHL playoff championship. In a tight battle, Kootenay advanced directly to the Memorial Cup Final after defeating Erie 3-0 and Guelph 4-3 before Victoriaville knocked them off 3-2 in the round robin portion.
Kootenay then captured their only Memorial Cup championship with a 6-3 win over Victoriaville in the final game.
The 2002 Kootenay Ice pose with their Memorial Cup
Since then, the Ice have qualified for the playoffs in each of the next eight seasons, but have yet to capture another WHL title despite setting and tying a team record with 104 regular season points in both 2004-05 and 2006-07.
Notable NHL players to come from the Ice include Mike Comrie, Mike Green, Marek Svatos and Matt Walker.
Today's featured jersey is a 1998-99 Kootenay Ice Kyle Wanvig jersey. While many minor league affiliates adopt the same style jerseys of their parent clubs due to the business relationship they share, that reasoning does not apply to Canadian junior teams.
This Kootenay Ice jersey is taken straight from the Washington Capitals 1995-2000 road jerseys with no alteration to the coloring, striping or font used for the numbers whatsoever. Even the secondary logos on the shoulders copies the Capitals crossed hockey sticks behind the logo.
We already have an issue with unimaginative team names such as "Ice" or "Blades" and the like, but to combine a poor choice of name with an amateurish, cartoonish logo like the Ice have chosen, and then to put it on what is essentially someone else's jersey without even bothering to select team colors of your own, shows an incredible, even inexcusable lack of thought, creativity or originality motivated by either laziness or perhaps a severely limited budget, as using an already existing supply of jerseys and having the owner's sixth grader draw (notice we did not say "design") your logo in order to save as much money as possible seems to be the only rationale for these jerseys we can come up with.
Designing a jersey for a hockey team is a rare and wonderful opportunity that many designers would love a chance to do, and there's enough talented hockey fans out there who love to post their concepts of what they would create given the chance, such as with the Manitoba Moose, whose logo was designed by a submission contest on a sports message board, that to settle for a stock jersey out of the warehouse combined with a terrible logo to identify your completely unimaginative team name is a terrible waste of an opportunity to create something memorable and worthwhile to represent your organization. We seriously wonder why no one at Bauer didn't attempt to steer the team in another direction as far as an original striping pattern or at least creating this jersey template in colors unique to the club in order to avoid having their brand name on such a shoddy effort.
Without knowing in advance, we discovered while researching this article that an authority of no less than The Hockey News agrees with us, having ranked the Ice's logo #21 out of 22 and the jersey dead last in the WHL. Clearly we could not agree more.
Speaking of horrible looking pieces of crap, their logo actually looks better when compared to their mascot, who has all the personality of an old sponge. Aren't mascots supposed to be fun and animated?