In 1978 the WCHL shortened its name to the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the storied Flin Flon Bombers left Manitoba to become the second coming of the Edmonton Oil Kings. Such was the stage for what would become a magical season for the Brandon Wheat Kings in 1978-79. A season of triumph and championships, individual and team records, and the heartbreak of an overtime loss in the Memorial Cup final as its only blemish. A season still talked about and fondly remembered by Wheat King fans and one which, until three short years ago when the London Knights eclipsed their record, stood as the standard of excellence in Canadian junior hockey for over 20 years.
The 1978-79 WHL season saw the Brandon Wheat Kings capture the President’s Cup finishing first in the East Division with a record of 58 wins to only 5 losses and 9 ties for a phenomenal 125 points, 14 ahead of West Division Champion Portland Winter Hawks and 38 points better than Central Champ Billings Bighorns.
The top 3 WHL scorers were all Wheat Kings: Brian Propp (71 GP 94 G 100 A 194 PTS 127 PIM), Ray Allison (62 GP 60 G 93 A 153 PTS 191 PIM) and Laurie Boschman (65 GP 66 G 83 A 149 PTS 215 PIM). The team set WHL records with Most Points (125), Fewest Losses (5), Longest Unbeaten Streak overall (49 games) and in one season (29), and a remarkable record of only 3 losses on the road.
In the play-offs, the Wheat Kings advanced (7-1) in a round robin format vs. Saskatoon and Edmonton to meet the Blades in the Division Final. They swept Saskatoon 4-0 to go on to the League semis where they advanced (3-1) vs. Portland and Lethbridge. The two teams with the best regular season record met in the WHL Championship final, with the Wheat Kings defeating the Winter Hawks 4-2 to capture the title. WHL hardware piled up for the Wheaties as Propp won the Bob Clarke Trophy as Top Scorer, Rick Knickle the Del Wilson Trophy as Top Goaltender and the late Dunc McCallum the Coach of the Year Trophy now named in his honour by the League.
The 1979 Memorial Cup final was hosted by the QMJHL and the games were played in Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke and Verdun. The competing teams included the Brandon Wheat Kings from the WHL (their first trip to a Memorial Cup final since 1949 when they lost to the Montreal Royals), the Peterborough Petes from the OHL Hockey League and the QMJHL’s Trois-Rivières Draveurs. The Draveurs were back to back QMJHL champions as they swept the Sherbrooke Castors to earn their second consecutive visit to the Memorial Cup final. Peterborough was also returning to the Memorial Cup for the second year in a row as they lost in the 1978 final to the New Westminster Bruins. Eleven members of the Petes’ 1978 team would return for a second chance at a Memorial Cup victory. Peterborough won the J. Ross Robertson Cup by defeating the Niagara Falls Flyers in a series that went seven games.
The 1979 tournament was a double round robin tournament with the top two teams advancing to the sudden death final. The results were unique in that Trois-Rivières won its first two games, Peterborough won its two games in its second and third games, while the Wheat Kings’ two victories came at the end of their round robin schedule. With all three teams tied at two wins and two losses, mathematics were used to determine that the Petes and Wheaties would meet in the final. Peterborough had won their first contest 7-6 in overtime and Brandon won the second by a score of 3-2. It set the stage for two well matched squads to meet in sudden death. In the final Bob Attwell scored 2:38 into overtime to give Peterborough a 2-1 win its first ever Memorial Cup championship.
Their CHL record of 125 points in a season stands today, as does the Fewest Losses (5) in one season; and it would be 25 years until London of the OHL topped the Wheaties’ 29-game Undefeated Streak by going 31 games in 2004. A magical season and a team Wheat King fans will never forget.
Brian Propp, Ray Allison, Laurie Boschman, Brad McCrimmon, Dave Stewart, Mike Petrovich, Steve Patrick, Brad Kempthorne, Tim Lockridge, Don Gillen, Wes Coulson, Brant Kiessig, Don Dietrich, Dave McDonald, Kelly McCrimmon, Dave Chartier, Darren Gusdal, Walt Poddubny, Larry Roberts, Kelly Elcombe, Pat Workman,
Laverne Popple, *Greg Mann, Dean Rebeck, Rick Knickle, Scott Olson #John McPhee, #Mike Moskalyk, Jack Brockest (Owner), *Dunc McCallum (Head Coach)
(#- did not finish year with team, *- deceased)