Saskatoon Blades
CitySaskatoon, Saskatchewan
LeagueWestern Hockey League
ConferenceEastern
DivisionEast
Founded1964
Home arenaSaskTel Centre
ColoursRoyal blue, gold, white
     
MascotPoke Check
Owner(s)Mike Priestner
General managerColin Priestner
Head coachBrennan Sonne
Websitesaskatoonblades.com
Franchise history
1964–1966Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
1966–presentWestern Hockey League
Championships
Regular season titles4 (1972–73, 1982–83, 1987–88, 2010–11)
Division titles2 (1991–92, 1993–94)
Playoff championshipsEd Chynoweth Cup 0 Memorial Cup 0

The Saskatoon Blades are a Canadian major junior ice hockey team based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Founded in 1964, the Blades were a charter team of the then-Western Canada Hockey League, and are the only club that has played every season in the league in its original location. Today, the team plays in the East Division of the Western Hockey League's Eastern Conference, and hosts games at the SaskTel Centre. Despite five appearances in the championship series, the Blades have never won a league title.

History

WHL founding member

The Blades were established in 1964 as members of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, evolving from the Saskatoon Junior Quakers, who had played in the league since 1956.[1][2] Owner Jim Piggott saw the team as a junior affiliate for his minor professional Western Hockey League Los Angeles Blades.[3] However, Piggott became an instrumental figure in establishing a new major junior league for western Canada that could compete against teams across Canada for the Memorial Cup.[4] The Blades became one of seven founding members of the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League in 1966, which became the Western Canada Junior Hockey League in 1967, the Western Canada Hockey League in 1968, and, finally, the Western Hockey League in 1978, after the admission of American-based clubs.[4] The Blades are the only team to have played every WHL season in its original location—the Regina Pats were also a founding team, but briefly left the WHL to re-join the SJHL at the end of the 1960s.[5]

The Blades, playing out of the 1930s-era Saskatoon Arena, were a middling team in the late 1960s, failing to win a playoff series in any of their first six seasons.[3][6]

The Jackie McLeod era

The Blades hired Jackie McLeod, a former National Hockey League (NHL) player from Regina who had also managed the Canadian national team from 1967 to 1969, as its coach and general manager, roles he filled for most of the 1970s.[7][8] McLeod also became part owner of the franchise from 1976 to 1980 after he partnered with two others, including Nate Brodsky, to buy the team from Piggott.[3] Under McLeod's guidance and with star players like Bernie Federko, Bob Bourne, Larry Sacharauk, Brent Ashton, Randy Ireland, and Blair Chapman, the Blades emerged as a contending team in the 1970s, missing the playoffs just once and making three finals appearances.[3] Saskatoon finished with the league's best record in 1972–73 and made their first ever appearance in the league final, which they lost to the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Blades topped the East Division in both the 1974–75 and 1975–76 seasons and made consecutive finals appearances; they lost both in seven games to a dynastic New Westminster Bruins team that made four straight Memorial Cup finals appearances from 1975 to 1978.[9] McLeod's last season behind the bench was 1978–79, when the Blades lost the Division final to the eventual champion and Memorial Cup-finalist Brandon Wheat Kings.

Under the Brodsky family

In 1980, the Brodsky family, which had become majority owners in 1976, took over sole ownership of the club, which they would retain until 2013.[10] Despite the presence of new star players and future NHL figures like Lane Lambert, Brian Skrudland, Wendel Clark, Trent Yawney, Marc Habscheid, Todd McLellan, Curtis Leschyshyn, and Tim Cheveldae, the Blades continued to fall short of the elusive league championship. The team topped the league standings in both the 1982–83 and 1987–88 seasons, but failed to advance to the finals either season. The highlights of the 1980s were the opening of the new Saskatchewan Place arena in 1988, and hosting the 1989 Memorial Cup there. The Blades' first game at the new rink took place on 9 February 1988, a 4–3 victory over the Wheat Kings, a game in which the Blades trailed 3–0, in front of a sell-out crowd of 9,343.[11] In the 1989 Memorial Cup tournament, the Blades, who lost in the third round of the WHL playoffs to the Swift Current Broncos, met the Broncos in the Final, losing in overtime by a score of 4–3.[12]

The Blades finally returned to the championship series twice in the first half of the 1990s, both times facing the Kamloops Blazers. Coached by Lorne Molleken and led on the ice by the likes of Glen Gulutzan, Richard Matvichuk, Rhett Warrener, Wade Belak, and Norm Maracle, the Blades lost both the 1992 and 1994 finals 4 games to 3 against Blazers teams that went on to win the Memorial Cup, part of a run of three Memorial Cups in four years for Kamloops, the only team to achieve such a feat.[13] The run to the 1994 finals would mark the last time the Blades would advance past the second round of the WHL playoffs for nearly three decades. Before 1997, the Blades had failed to qualify for the post-season only five times; between 1997 and 2008, they would miss the playoffs six times, despite boasting future NHL players including Martin Erat, Mike Green, Devin Setoguchi, Anton Khudobin, and Braden Holtby.

After moving to the professional ranks in 1995, Molleken returned to coach the Blades in 2004, a role he would keep until 2013. He added general manager duties in 2011, and stayed in that role until 2014.[14] The Blades won another regular season title in this era, finishing with the best record of the 2010–11 season. Despite trading for star forward Brayden Schenn, the Blades lost in the second round to the eventual champions, the Kootenay Ice.[15] Saskatoon also hosted its second Memorial Cup tournament in 2013. The Blades appeared to be peaking towards the end of the WHL regular season, winning 18 straight games between late January and early March.[16] During that run, the Blades set a record attendance mark of 12,588 on 9 February against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, 25 years to the day since the opening of their arena.[17] However, the team lost its first round playoff series against the Medicine Hat Tigers, and won just one game at the Memorial Cup tournament.[18]

New ownership

After hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup, it became known that the Brodsky family was looking to sell the Blades after 37 years of ownership.[19] In August 2013, Brodsky sold the team to Edmonton businessman Mike Priestner, who had previously attempted to purchase the Kamloops Blazers in 2007.[20] Priestner had played as a goaltender in the league for the Kamloops Chiefs in 1974–75, while his son James tended goal for the Blazers and two other teams from 2007 to 2011.[21] The new ownership expressed a commitment to keeping the team in Saskatoon, and Mike's son Colin Priestner moved to the city and ultimately took over as general manager.[22]

The Blades and Regina Pats facing off in Game 7 of their 2023 first round playoff series

This marked the beginning of a challenging on-ice period for the Blades, who had sacrificed draft picks and prospects for trades in anticipation of a longer 2013 Memorial Cup season. The team missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2018. Led by Kirby Dach, the Blades returned to the playoffs in 2019 and won their first playoff series since 2011, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 playoffs and a heavily modified 2021 campaign without playoffs.[23] The team finally found more on-ice consistency as the WHL returned to regular scheduling in the 2021–22 season, again returning to the playoffs. In 2022–23, the Blades posted their first 100-point season since 2011, and went on their deepest playoff run since 1994. The Blades met the Regina Pats in the first round, the first playoff matchup between the two since 2006; the Blades set new attendance records against the Pats, selling out multiple games to the capacity of 14,768 for the first time in team history, in no small part because Regina was captained by top NHL prospect Connor Bedard.[24] Despite losing the first two games of the series on home ice, the Blades won the series 4 games to 3, winning the decisive game 7 at home by a score of 4–1.[25] In the second round, the Blades became just the third team in WHL history to win a series after falling behind 3 games to none, defeating the Red Deer Rebels at home in game 7 by a 5–2 score.[26] The Blades' run came to an end in their first third-round appearance in nearly 30 years, when they were swept by the top-seeded Winnipeg Ice.[27] Head coach Brennan Sonne was named WHL coach of the year, the first Blades coach to win the recognition since Molleken in 1994.[27][28]

Memorial Cup appearances

The Blades have never won a WHL championship for the chance to compete for the Memorial Cup. However, Saskatoon has hosted the Memorial Cup tournament twice, in 1989 and in 2013, enabling the Blades to participate. In 1989, a year after the team began playing at Saskatchewan Place, the Blades were joined by their provincial counterpart and WHL Champion Swift Current Broncos, the OHL Champion Peterborough Petes, and the QMJHL Champion Laval Titan. The Blades finished first in the round robin with a 2–1 record, including a 5–4 victory over the Broncos, who had a 14-game undefeated streak dating back to the start of the WHL playoffs, including a third-round sweep over the Blades. Their record gave the Blades a berth in the Memorial Cup final, where they lost a re-match to the Broncos, 4–3 in overtime.[12] It was the first Memorial Cup final contested between two Saskatchewan teams.[12]

In 2013, which marked the 25-year anniversary of their home arena, the tournament included the WHL Champion Portland Winterhawks, the OHL Champion London Knights, and the QMJHL Champion Halifax Mooseheads. The Blades finished the round robin with a 1–2 record, their lone win coming over the Mooseheads, and they lost to the Knights in a tiebreaker, failing to advance to the semi-final. The Mooseheads won the Memorial Cup with a 6–4 victory over the Winterhawks.[29] Blades' goaltender Andrey Makarov won the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy as the tournament's outstanding goalie.[30] The tournament boasted the fourth-highest attendance to date in tournament history.[30]

Rivalries

The Blades have longstanding rivalries with the Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders, the two teams closest to the Blades' home in Saskatoon—all three cities are connected via Highway 11.[24][31] The Blades have faced the Pats and Raiders in the playoffs seven times each. The only teams they have met in the post-season more times, with eight meetings each, are the Broncos—including five meetings since the franchise returned to Swift Current from Lethbridge in 1986—and the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Blades also faced the Broncos in the 1989 Memorial Cup final.[32]

NHL alumni

Bernie Federko is the only former Blade in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Saskatoon Blades Logo 1983/84 – 1992/93

Retired numbers

# Player
7 Gerry Pinder / Brent Ashton
10 Brian Skrudland
12 Bob Bourne
15 Bernie Federko
22 Wendel Clark
39 Frank Banham
44 Chase Wouters

In addition to the seven retired numbers, the Blades unveiled a banner honouring former captain Bruce Gordon in 2017. Gordon went on to a long career in policing and later attended law school, before he was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2017.[33]

Coaches

# Coach Years
1 Burns McDonald 1964–65
2 George Agar 1964–70
3 George Senick 1969–70*
4 Jackie McLeod 1970–79
5 Jerry Engele 1979–80
6 Lorne Frey 1980–81
7 Daryl Lubiniecki 1981–84
8 Marcel Comeau 1984–89
9 Terry Ruskowski 1989–91
10 Bob Hoffmeyer 1991*
11 Lorne Molleken 1991–95
12 Donn Clark 1995–98
13 Willie Desjardins 1998*
14 Brad McCrimmon 1998–2000
15 Kevin Dickie 2000–04
16 Jamie Reeve 2003–04*
17 Lorne Molleken 2004–13
18 Dave Struch 2013–14
19 Bob Woods 2014–16
20 Dean Brockman 2016–18
21 Mitch Love 2018–2021
22 Brennan Sonne 2021–Present
*Interim coach
Brayden Schenn playing for the Blades in 2011, wearing a non-Pac Man era jersey.

Logo and jerseys

For most of the team's history, the Blades have sported royal blue, gold, and white jerseys featuring a variation of a skate blade logo that has become known as the "Pac-Man." They dropped that logo from primary status in 1993, and dropped yellow from the colour palette in 2004, opting for navy blue and white on a new skate logo, with the skate blade emerging from stylized "SB" initials.[34] In 2017, the Blades re-adopted their classic colour scheme and logo.[35]

Like many major junior teams, the Blades frequently don special event jerseys, such as Star Wars-themed jerseys they wore in a 2015 game.[36] In September 2018, the Blades wore a special jersey to honour the Humboldt Broncos after the Broncos bus crash earlier that year.[37] In 2022, the Blades unveiled their first Pride-themed jerseys, which they wore on a Pride night on 22 January.[38][39] During the 2012–13 season, the Blades held a fan jersey design contest; the team wore the winning jersey, designed by Fabio Burà, during a game on 2 February 2013.[40]

The Blades' mascot is a yeti named Poke Check.[41]

Current roster

Updated January 11, 2024.[42]

# Nat Player Pos S/G Age Acquired Birthplace Drafted
53 Canada Nicholas Andrusiak D L 19 2023 Tisdale, Saskatchewan Undrafted
27 United States Easton Armstrong RW R 21 2023 Redondo Beach, California Undrafted
55 Canada John Babcock D L 19 2024 North Vancouver, British Columbia Undrafted
23 Canada Rowan Calvert LW L 18 2020 Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Undrafted
31 Canada Austin Elliott G L 19 2019 Strathmore, Alberta Undrafted
35 Canada Evan Gardner G L 17 2021 Fort St. John, British Columbia Eligible 2024
28 Canada Lukas Hansen C L 19 2020 Winnipeg, Manitoba Undrafted
6 Canada Carter Herman D L 18 2023 Swift Current, Saskatchewan Undrafted
72 Canada William James RW R 17 2023 Calgary, Alberta Eligible 2025
11 Canada Hudson Kibblewhite RW R 16 2022 Vernon, British Columbia Eligible 2025
4 Canada Brayden Klimpke D L 16 2022 Calgary, Alberta Eligible 2026
8 Canada Brandon Lisowsky LW L 19 2019 Port Coquitlam, British Columbia 2022, 218th Overall, TOR
3 Canada Jordan Martin D R 17 2022 Abbotsford, British Columbia Eligible 2025
9 Canada Rhett Melnyk RW R 19 2023 Edmonton, Alberta Undrafted
16 Canada Fraser Minten C L 19 2023 Vancouver, British Columbia 2022, 38th Overall, TOR
24 Canada Tanner Molendyk D L 19 2020 Kamloops, British Columbia 2023, 24th Overall, NSH
20 Canada Tyler Parr C R 19 2020 La Salle, Manitoba Undrafted
2 Canada Ben Saunderson D L 19 2019 Carberry, Manitoba Undrafted
19 Belarus Egor Sidorov LW L 19 2021 Vitebsk, Belarus 2023, 85th Overall, ANA
21 Canada Grayden Siepmann D R 19 2023 Windsor, Ontario Undrafted
91 Sweden Alexander Suzdalev LW L 20 2023 Khabarovsk, Russia 2022, 70th Overall, WSH
52 Canada Morgan Tastad D L 18 2021 Loreburn, Saskatchewan Eligible 2024
17 Canada Misha Volotovskii LW L 18 2020 Calgary, Alberta Undrafted
18 Canada Vaughn Watterodt C L 20 2021 Rosetown, Saskatchewan Undrafted
38 Canada Trevor Wong (C) C L 20 2021 Vancouver, British Columbia Undrafted
47 Canada Charlie Wright (A) D L 20 2018 Olds, Alberta Undrafted

Hockey staff

General Manager: Colin Priestner

Head Coach: Brennan Sonne Associate Coach: Dan DaSilva Assistant Coach: Wacey Rabbit Assistant Coach: Jerome Engele[43]

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season GP W L T OTL GF GA Points Finish Playoffs
1966–67 56 25 24 7 288 271 57 5th Overall Lost quarter-final
1967–68 60 20 31 9 260 362 49 7th Overall Lost quarter-final
1968–69 60 24 35 1 195 271 49 3rd West Lost quarter-final
1969–70 60 18 41 1 202 282 37 4th West Lost quarter-final
1970–71 66 29 36 1 295 299 59 3rd West Lost quarter-final
1971–72 68 37 28 3 312 258 77 2nd East Lost quarter-final
1972–73 68 46 11 11 323 184 103 1st East Lost final
1973–74 68 30 29 9 283 272 69 4th East Lost quarter-final
1974–75 70 38 22 10 344 244 86 1st East Lost final
1975–76 72 43 19 10 390 269 96 1st East Lost final
1976–77 72 30 30 12 317 290 72 2nd East Lost preliminary round
1977–78 72 20 50 2 340 460 42 4th East Out of playoffs
1978–79 72 26 32 14 385 398 66 2nd East Lost East Division final
1979–80 72 27 40 5 331 382 59 7th East Out of playoffs
1980–81 72 22 47 3 297 427 47 8th East Out of playoffs
1981–82 72 44 26 2 450 343 90 3rd East Lost East Division quarter-final
1982–83 72 52 19 1 467 303 105 1st East Lost East Division semi-final
1983–84 72 36 36 0 347 350 72 7th East Out of playoffs
1984–85 72 29 41 2 309 378 60 6th East Lost East Division quarter-final
1985–86 72 38 28 6 381 360 82 4th East Lost East Division semi-final
1986–87 72 44 26 2 369 282 90 2nd East Lost East Division final
1987–88 72 47 22 3 381 294 97 1st East Lost East Division final
1988–89 72 42 28 2 366 335 86 2nd East Lost East Division final; Lost Memorial Cup final
1989–90 72 33 34 5 325 354 71 4th East Lost East Division semi-final
1990–91 72 29 41 2 309 363 60 7th East Out of playoffs
1991–92 72 38 29 5 315 260 81 3rd East Lost final
1992–93 72 42 27 3 311 236 87 3rd East Lost East Division semi-final
1993–94 72 49 22 1 326 229 99 1st East Lost final
1994–95 72 41 23 8 324 254 90 3rd East Lost East Division semi-final
1995–96 72 29 42 1 314 351 59 4th East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
1996–97 72 18 48 6 227 344 42 6th East Out of playoffs
1997–98 72 25 39 8 263 327 58 4th East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
1998–99 72 16 49 7 184 291 39 6th East Out of playoffs
1999–00 72 34 27 8 3 216 223 79 2nd East Lost Eastern Conference semi-final
2000–01 72 19 43 5 5 193 265 48 5th East Out of playoffs
2001–02 72 27 37 5 3 216 257 62 4th East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
2002–03 72 40 27 5 0 234 205 85 3rd East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
2003–04 72 7 52 11 2 140 279 27 5th East Out of playoffs
2004–05 72 37 23 6 6 234 215 86 2nd East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
Season GP W L OTL SOL GF GA Points Finish Playoffs
2005–06 72 41 25 2 4 232 217 88 2nd East Lost Eastern Conference semi-final
2006–07 72 27 41 2 2 174 231 58 6th East Out of playoffs
2007–08 72 29 34 3 6 182 229 67 5th East Out of playoffs
2008–09 72 49 18 3 2 283 195 103 1st East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
2009–10 72 46 19 3 4 258 227 99 2nd East Lost Eastern Conference semi-final
2010–11 72 56 13 1 2 310 213 115 1st East Lost Eastern Conference semi-final
2011–12 72 40 29 1 2 268 250 83 2nd East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
2012–13 72 44 22 2 4 280 221 94 1st East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final; Lost Memorial Cup tie-breaker
2013–14 72 16 51 2 3 207 317 37 6th East Out of playoffs
2014–15 72 19 49 2 2 195 308 42 6th East Out of playoffs
2015–16 72 26 42 4 0 219 318 56 6th East Out of playoffs
2016–17 72 28 35 7 2 190 248 65 5th East Out of playoffs
2017–18 72 35 33 3 1 237 276 74 6th East Out of playoffs
2018–19 68 45 15 8 0 259 190 98 2nd East Lost Eastern Conference semi-final
2019–20 63 34 24 2 3 211 197 73 4th East Cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
2020–21 24 16 5 2 1 80 62 35 3rd East No playoffs held due to COVID-19 pandemic
2021-22 68 38 26 3 1 219 217 80 3rd East Lost Eastern Conference quarter-final
2022–23 68 48 15 4 1 257 171 101 2nd East Lost Eastern Conference final

Championship history

WHL Championship

Memorial Cup Championship

Team records

Team records for a single season[44]
Statistic Total Season
Most points 115 2010–11
Most wins 56 2010–11
Most road wins (Tied WHL record) 28 2008–09
Most home wins 32 2010–11
Most goals for 461 1982–83
Fewest goals for 140 2003–04
Fewest goals against 171 2022–23
Most goals against 460 1977–78
Individual player records for a single season[44]
Statistic Player Total Season
Most goals Frank Banham 83 1995–96
Most assists Bruce Eakin 125 1981–82
Most points Bernie Federko 187 1975–76
Most points, rookie Lane Lambert 114 1981–82
Most points, defenceman Pat Price 95 1973–74
Best GAA (goalie) Ed Humphreys 2.57 1972–73
Goalies = minimum 1500 minutes played
Career records[44]
Statistic Player Total Career
Most goals Frank Banham 190 1992–1996
Most assists Paul Buczkowski 224 1990–1996
Most points Frank Banham 370 1992–1996
Most points, defenceman Stefan Elliott 241 2007–2011
Most games played Paul Buczkowski 337 1990–1996
Most wins (goalie) Nolan Maier 122 2017–2022
Most shutouts (goalie) Nolan Maier 12 2017–2022

See also

References

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