Me­mo­rial Cup cham­pion Bron­cos re­u­nite dur­ing Hockey Day in Canada

The Southwest Booster - - MARKET PLACE - STEVEN MAH SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

The Hockey Day in Canada week­end in Swift Cur­rent was a chance to high­light the sto­ries of courage in Swift Cur­rent. It was also an op­por­tu­nity to hon­our the 1989 Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos Me­mo­rial Cup Cham­pi­onship team that turned tragedy to tri­umph only two sea­sons after Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Man­tyka, and Brent Ruff were killed in a bus ac­ci­dent.

The mem­bers of the cham­pi­onship team in at­ten­dance were goal­tender Trevor Kruger, de­fense­man Bob Wilkie, and for­wards Shel­don Kennedy, Tim Tis­dale, Kimbi Daniels, and Trent Mc­cleary. They were on the ice for an alumni/ celebrity game in front of ap­prox­i­mately 2,700 fans on Fri­day night.

“It was great,” said Daniels after his team, cap­tained by Lanny Mcdonald, won 15-5. “I don’t get a chance to come back to Swift Cur­rent very of­ten, so any time I do it’s spe­cial. Ob­vi­ously for an event like this is top notch.”

“Shel­don and I were kind of laugh­ing about it at the be­gin­ning be­cause the last time we skated here, or I skated here, was the last play­off game we played at home. So lots of mem­o­ries and a very cool ex­pe­ri­ence,” added Wilkie, who suited up for Team Tucker.

The 1998-89 Bron­cos ran away with the Western Hockey League ti­tle with a 55-16-1 record, 25 points clear of the next clos­est team in the 14-team league.

Tis­dale fin­ished third in league scor­ing with 139 points in 68 games as Peter Ka­sowski, Kennedy, Dan Lam­bert, and Brian Sa­kic all fin­ished with at least 100 points.

Tis­dale said the over­all skill level was what stuck out about the cham­pi­onship team.

“Three de­fense­man back there, they never get enough credit, but Lam­bert, Wilkie, and [Dar­ren] Kruger were three of the smartest de­fense­man to ever play in the league. They jumped into the play of­fen­sively all the time. Just the depth that we had at for­ward, when you have a 50-goal scorer on each line teams just couldn’t match up against us.”

Wilkie con­trib­uted 85 points in 62 games on a blue­line that also fea­tured Lam­bert’s 102 points and Kruger’s 97 points.

“For me it was cam­raderie and how tight the team was. Amidst all the chaos we were al­ways able to get to­gether and pull it to­gether. We knew what we could do and to be able to live up to that po­ten­tial and be the best team in Canada it was a spe­cial time,” said Wilkie.

“I had no idea go­ing into my first year there how good of a team it was,” ad­mit­ted Daniels. “I prob­a­bly didn’t re­al­ize un­til Christ­mas that we were as good as we were. It was a real spe­cial group of guys, the older guys cer­tainly, I didn’t know it at the time, but re­ally taught me how to be a hockey player, a pro­fes­sional, as I got older in my ca­reer. Just be­ing around those guys was how I tried to be around younger play­ers. I def­i­nitely learned a lot that year and it was a spe­cial time for me.”

The Bron­cos team set a league record with 180 power play goals, a record that 30 years later has never been se­ri­ously chal­lenged.

They were even more dom­i­nant in the play­offs as they won se­ries over the Moose Jaw Warriors, Saska­toon Blades, and Port­land Win­ter­hawks without los­ing a sin­gle game.

They scored 83 goals in the play­offs, an av­er­age of nearly seven goals per game. Tis­dale added 32 play­off points, fol­lowed by 28 from Lam­bert and 24 from Kennedy.

The Bron­cos de­feated the host Saska­toon Blades 4-3 in the 1989 Me­mo­rial Cup.

Daniels scored the only goal of the third pe­riod to send the game to over­time.

“In hind­sight it’s prob­a­bly the big­gest goal I ever scored in my life. Just to try and get one early to tie the game, ob­vi­ously we would have liked to have won it in reg­u­la­tion time, but it just made for a bet­ter story I guess,” said the Este­van prod­uct.

Tis­dale scored the gamewin­ing goal only 3:25 into the sud­den death over­time pe­riod.

“I re­mem­ber jump­ing on the ice and head­ing to the front of the net. As usual our de­fense­man are mak­ing ex­tra plays back there, things you’d never see guys do later on. Just the aware­ness of Dar­ren Kruger know­ing I’m there. Rather than try­ing to shoot the puck he makes a play and al­lows me to tip it in. The build­ing just goes crazy,” said Tis­dale.

“We were so con­fi­dent in our abil­i­ties that we were betting cases of beer on who was go­ing to score the win­ning goal,” laughed Wilkie. “I don’t think there was ever a doubt in our mind and I think that’s why we were able to pull it out.”

“There was just no panic level,” added Daniels. “I think every­body was re­ally con­fi­dent in their abil­i­ties in­di­vid­u­ally and as a col­lec­tive group that just trans­lated. We were re­ally tough, not nec­es­sar­ily fight­ing, but guys played hard, were phys­i­cal, took a beat­ing some nights to score goals. At no point, even down 3-2 in the Me­mo­rial Cup and go­ing into over­time, there was just never any panic on our team and that’s prob­a­bly the thing I re­mem­ber the most.”

The 6’2’’, 215-pound Wilkie had a 12-year pro­fes­sional ca­reer that in­cluded brief NHL stops with the Detroit Red Wings and Philadel­phia Flyers. He said he had no idea what type of im­pact the cham­pi­onship sea­son would have on Swift Cur­rent over the years.

“For the peo­ple and the town and the mem­o­ries that we left, no. I know that I have car­ried them around for the last 30 years. It’s one of the most spe­cial mem­o­ries that I have, so I can imag­ine what it’s done for the town. I re­ally felt it to­day. I am so glad that they picked Swift for Hockey Day in Canada be­cause I think it’s a great story that the coun­try needs to hear.”

Daniels to­taled 30 goals and 31 as­sists dur­ing 1988-89 as a 16-year-old. He had a his­toric game the fol­low­ing sea­son when he scored all seven goals in a 7-4 win over the host Medicine Hat Tigers on Oct. 20, 1990, which re­mains tied for the most goals in a sin­gle WHL game.

“It was a weird night. I got a cou­ple in the first pe­riod. I ac­ci­den­tally blocked a shot in the sec­ond pe­riod, thought I was go­ing to miss the rest of the game, so I left the ice for a lit­tle bit, but came back,” said Daniels. “At the time I was play­ing with Andy Sch­nei­der, who any­body who has watched the Bron­cos over the years knows he is prob­a­bly the best passer that has ever come through here. So I had a few tap ins that were real easy that added up to spe­cial night.”

Daniels played his first pro­fes­sional game in 1990 with the Philadel­phia Flyers and con­cluded his ca­reer in 200809 with the Phoenix Road­run­ners in the East Coast Hockey League. Along the way he played in seven dif­fer­ent leagues and in ev­ery cor­ner of North Amer­ica. His hockey odyssey took him as far as Slove­nia and also in­cluded eight sea­sons with the Achor­age/ Alaska Aces near the end of his ca­reer.

“I was re­ally lucky. I played in a lot of good spots. I didn’t mind the mov­ing around at all. I played for great coaches. I had great team­mates along the way. I en­joyed every­where I played. I know guys that played in a lot less places than I did and maybe, for what­ever rea­sons, didn’t en­joy it as much. I cer­tainly did en­joy it. When I went to Alaska I thought it was go­ing to be for one year, but I ended up stay­ing for eight and liv­ing up there. It’s weird how the world works. I have no com­plaints, I en­joyed my ca­reer im­mensely.”

STEVEN MAH/SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Bob Wilkie (left) skated on the iplex ice for the first time since the Bron­cos 12-0 play­off run in 1989.

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