Brandon, MB. -- Not only did Saturday's 3-2 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings move the Brandon Wheat Kings to within a point of top spot in the Eastern Division, it was the 1,500th win in Western Hockey League franchise history.
While the Wheat Kings played a number of seasons in both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey Leagues in the fifties and sixties, the club became an official member of the Western Canada Hockey League in 1967, joining the likes of the Flin Flon Bombers, Estevan Bruins, Edmonton Oil Kings, Moose Jaw Canucks, Regina Pats, Winnipeg Jr. Jets, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos, Weyburn Red Wings and Calgary Centennials.
The Wheat Kings were one of four teams to join the 11-team circuit in '67, joining Swift Current, Flin Flon and Winnipeg as first year members.
Brandon's first year in '67-68 saw Flin Flon, Estevan and Edmonton finish 1-2-3 during the regular season. Led by the likes of Jim Harrison and Dale Hoganson, the Bruins defeated Bobby Clarke's Bombers four games to none (with one game tied) in the best of seven Championship Final.
Clarke was chosen the league's Most Valuable Player after leading the WCHL in scoring with 51 goals and 168 points in 59 games.
As for the Wheat Kings, they finished with a record of 23-33-6 and finished in eighth place during the regular season. A playoff appearance saw Brandon lose a dramatic 8-game series to Reg Bechtold and the Moose Jaw Canucks.
Leading the Wheat Kings that first year was Jack Borotsik, who finished his first of two seasons with Brandon by scoring 85 points, including 36 goals in sixty games.
Since joining the WCHL in '67, the Wheat Kings have compiled an overall record of 1500-1394-171 ties-29 OT losses and 28 Shootout losses.
During their time in the WCHL / WHL, the Wheat Kings have reached the 40-win plateau on seventeen occasions, including seven times in the past ten seasons. As well, Brandon has won over 50 games four times, including the 2009-10 campaign when the Wheat Kings finished 50-18-1-3, good for 104 points.
The Wheat Kings best ever performance was in 1978-79 when the team, led by the likes of Brian Propp, Ray Allison, Laurie Boschman and Brad McCrimmon, finished with a league record of 58-5-9.
In Saturday's historic win over Edmonton, Michael Ferland scored what proved to be the deciding goal early in the third period and 18-year old netminder Corbin Boes turned aside 27 shots.
Brandon enters Tuesday night's game in Swift Current with a record of 9-5-0-1, good for 19 points and a share of second place in the WHL's Eastern Division.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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