1 RAIDERS ARE CHAMPS - As we predicted right here a couple of weeks ago, the WHL Championship went the distance and the Raiders, in their home barn, celebrated their first title since 1985. What a moment for that community and everyone involved in the organization. It was a wildly emotional celebration and I congratulate everyone. Well done.
The biggest thing I miss about the lack of television coverage this season? Being on the ice, amid the celebration, and trying to capture the emotion and share the experience with the viewers.
2 HANNOUN THR HERO - Has Dante Hannoun been able to sleep since his heroics in overtime of game seven? I know I certainly wouldn't be able to. What a journey for the kid from Delta, BC. Acquired from the Victoria Royals midway through the season, he was outstanding in the playoffs, scoring 14 times including maybe the biggest goal in Raiders' history. Fantastic!
3 PAIN IN THE A** - Hannoun has become somewhat of a pain in the back end for the Giants. Between the Raiders and Royals, he's played against, and put up a ton of points, against Vancouver. Giants' radio colour commentator Bill Wilms summed it up nicely on the broadcast on Sportsnet 650:
“As much as Dante Hannoun has been a pain in the a** for the Vancouver Giants, he just added another notch to that”
4 GREGOR RE-IGNITED - When the game was set for overtime I was asked on Twitter who I thought would score for each team. Naturally I picked Milos Roman of the Giants and Noah Gregor of the Raiders. With the game tied 2-2, it was those two who had scored all four goals in the game through regulation. As it turns out, it was Gregor who made the play to set up the game-winning-goal.
It's been interesting to follow Noah Gregor's journey through the WHL. The San Jose Sharks' prospect was an odd-man out on a talented Moose Jaw team, sent to Victoria but finished his junior career in PA. Maybe it was the magic of Marc Habscheid, but Gregor has been a beast with the Raiders and it has re-ignited his hockey career.
5 MVP - On any championship team there are many key players but playoff MVP Ian Scott was sensational. There were concerns that the Raiders might be in trouble should Scott ever go down but it never happened. Scott was good for beginning to end and will be a key to any success at the Memorial Cup. As a Toronto Maple Leafs' fan, I am pulling for him all the way!
6 ON THE ROAD - Early on Wednesday, the Raiders departed for Halifax where they will compete in the Memorial Cup. It was raining as the bus pulled out of the Art Hauser and headed towards their early-morning flight but that didn't stop hundreds of fans from lining the streets to see them off. Again, I'm astounded by the support of the community. Junior hockey really is the best!
7 FIELD SET - The Hosts from Halifax along with the OHL champion Guelph Storm, the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies join PA at the Memorial Cup which is set to begin Friday night.
There will be many familiar faces in the tournament that fans will recognize from last year's event in Regina alomg with the World Junior's. Noah Dobson and Mackenzie Entwistle were very empactful at last year's tournament while Montreal Canadiens' prospect Nick Suzuki was a member of Team Canada at the most recent WJHC and is starting for Guelph in these playoffs.
8 REVENUE BOOST - I've often had mixed feelings about small market teams taking championship runs in junior hockey. When they go 'all-in' and mortgage the future, the upside isn't as big as if could be in larger markets like Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, etc. The reason being is that those teams can sell 10,000+ tickets/game and capitalize in a greater way than small market teams that are capped at <3,000 seats. I wasn't, however, taking other revenue streams into account. I'm told beer and concession sales in Prince Albert set records game over game. That turns into nearly $200,000 of added revenue to the club. That matters in a big way.
9 VIEWING PARTY - Fans that can't make it to Halifax with the team will still be able to enjoy the experience. Plans are being put in place in short order to have viewing parties every time the Raiders play. It sounds very exciting and will be a must for those in the community. Stay tuned to the Raiders' social channels for the details.
10 NOT TOO BAD - The Spokane Chiefs were a pain in my prognosticating behind but all-in-all it was a good spring over here. I finished the predictions at 11-3-1. I'll take it.
I wanted to end this with a thought on the Giants. You'll notice I didn't really mention much about them though my 10 points. I can't imagine teams enjoy hearing how great they are when they lose so I've let them be. But I'd be remiss if I didn't give credit where it's due. This is a group that wasn't expected to be here when the season started. They are ahead of schedule and play a fun, exciting brand of hockey. The folks in Langley are a lucky bunch. Hold your heads high.