2008 Mem Cup final
Kitchener v. Spokane
I'd be remiss without mentioning today's Memorial Cup final in Kitchener, where either the Spokane Chiefs or Kitchener Rangers will be crowned junior hockey's champ for 2008.
If you think NHLers have a long road to a championship, just take a look at the schedule these kids have gone through this season
A 70-or-so game regular season, the world junior tournament over Christmas for a few, four rounds of playoffs and then a grueling nine-day round robin to determine a winner.
Meanwhile, the majority of these players are still in school, from Grade 11 to taking university credits in their spare time.
For some background, here's a preview piece I put together last week on the Rangers' success in Kitchener. And here's a look at the tournament standings and schedule.
UPDATE Chiefs win. In the 26 years they've used the four-team format, the WHL has now won 15 times, the OHL seven times and QMJHL just four.
For whatever reason, the West has been a more defensive, and dominant, league for quite a few years now, and a ton of great blueline prospects and goaltenders come out of the WHL every year.
UPDATE The Chiefs aren't one of the more well-known junior clubs, but there is a history of excellence and a good fan base in the city. I'll always remember Spokane for Mike Babcock's teams from 1994-2000 before he jumped up to the AHL to coach the Mighty Ducks' farm club.
They were tough to play against, one of the few WHL teams to challenge Kamloops regularly back when the Blazers were top dogs.
Now in the Stanley Cup finals with the Red Wings, Babcock was wearing a Chiefs hat at his press conference today. It's been a good weekend for his teams.
UPDATE As an aside, the Chiefs are owned by former baseball star George Brett.