I posted the following after the Giants Memorial Cup victory last Sunday:
"What a glorious aftrnoon of fellowship and the pure joy of hockey could be found in the HockeyBuzz Chatroom today! For almost four hours, a diverse group of us HB chatters eschewed family BBQs, a day at the beach, and other recreations of a beutiful holiday weekend Sunday afternoon to huddle by our computers and join, albeit in cyberspace, the crowd of 16,281 that filled the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, BC, as the WHL Vancouver Giants -- coached by my old friend of more than thirty years, Don "Hayzer" Hay -- played their 99th game of the year and captured junior hockey's ultimate prize, the Memorial Cup, by defeating the Medicine Hat Tigers, 3-1, in a tense, nailbiting contest. (It was also the ninth time these two powerhouse WHL rivals had played each other in May!)
"Over the past few months, the Giants have become the favorite of the regulars in the chatroom who have been joining together for each WHL playoff and Memorial Cup game in which our favorite club has participated this Spring to follow their exploits with the help of the Giants spectacular play-by-play voice, Joey Kenward. Joey was again at his post at "radio rinkside" weaving his masterful word pictures while we jointly lived and died with the Giants on every shift as they sought both to avenge the seventh game, double-overtime loss to the Tigers in MH two weeks ago in the WHL Finals -- and in doing so brought themselves the 89th Memorial Cup championship.
"While none of us have ever actually ever seen the Giants play in person, we feel that we know each and every one of these young men. The names of goalies Tyson Sexsmith and Blaine Neufeld, defensemen Brendan Mikkelson, Neil Manning, Cody Franson, Jonathon Blum, Brett Festerling, A. J. Thelen, Nolan Toigo, and Brent Regner, and forwards Evander Kane, Lance Bouma, J.D. Watt, Tim Kraus, Craig Cunningham, Spencer Machacek, Wacey Rabbit, Mitch Czibere, James Wright, Mario Bliznak, Kenndal McArdle, Garet Hunt, Michal Repik, Milan Lucic, and Mike Wuchterl have all become as famaliar to us as those of the players on our own favorite home pro teams, and we will intensely follow the progress of those members of this extraordinary team of teenages as they make their own way through the pro ranks.
"And behind the bench, of course, was Hayzer, my friend since we were together with the NAHL Philadelphia Firebirds in 1976-77. In the years since he has coached in the NHL with Phoenix and Calgary, and in the AHL with Utah. But it is in the rough and tumble world of the WHL in which he has made his name as the developer of young men into winning hockey players -- including his son, Darrell, who is captain of the ECHL Idaho Steelheads who are currently playing the Kelly Cup finals against Dayton Bombers. While the 2007 Memorial Cup is the Giants first, it is the fourth for Hay as a coach having won it three times before with Kamloops.
"The Stanley Cup finals open in Anaheim on Monday between the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators, and it will be glorious. But none of us "chatters" will likely follow it with quite the same passion and personal caring, I think, as we all gladly invested in the Giants these past weeks. The joy we collectively felt as we jointly heard Joey Kenward's excited voice coming out of the speakers of our computers as he announced that the Giants had just won the Memorial Cup will be wicked hard to match anytime soon!"
"Congratulations to Hayzer and the Giants -- the 2007 Memorial Cup Champions -- from all your friends and fans in the HockeyBuzz.com Chatroom!!!"
Today I received the following email from the Giants excellent play-by-play broadcaster, Joey Kenward, which includes a message he has asked me to share with the HockeyBuzz chatters
To which I made the following reply:
Wanted to reply to your message from a few days ago as the last couple of days have certainly been crazy for us here in Giants-land. They've also been days none of us will soon forget.
I know this is a very special time for Don Hay as he becomes the only coach in CHL history to win three Memorial Cups as a Head Coach. Add in one as an assistant coach and he has four! Quite an accomplishment to say the least. I'm sure he'd love to receive an e-mail from you (if he hasn't already).
Thanks again for your compliments and well-wishes over the past number of weeks. I don't take them for granted as it's great to hear a new following of Giants fans has been established on the other side of the continent.
Enjoy what's left of the Stanley Cup Finals ... and please forward the following information to your chatroom friends from me:
"I just want to say thank you to all of you who have jumped on board with following the Vancouver Giants to their run this spring to capturing their first ever Memorial Cup Title. It's quite the accomplishment to say the least, especially for a team that has only been on the ice since 2001!
From my perspective, it's been a real pleasure to hear a new group of Giants fans has been created the past few weeks by listening to the broadcasts over the internet. I greatly appreciate all the thanks and well-wishes that have come prior to and after the Memorial Cup. It's makes doing what I do for a living all the more worthwile.
On behalf of everyone associated with the Vancouver Giants, thanks for your support, no matter where you're celebrating a Giant Year for Hockey in Vancouver!!"
Voice of the Vancouver Giants
2007 Memorial Cup Champions
Thanks so very much for the kind note and your message for the chatroom which I will certainly pass along this when we all gather in a few hours for the second game of the Stanley Cup finals. I know it will be very much appreciated by all. I know how very crazy these past weeks -- and especially the last few days -- have been for you having been through a number of these myself over the years with the Flyers, Firebirds, Hershey Bears, Maine Mariners, Philadelphia Phantoms, etc. There is nothing quite like it!
I can't tell you how much we have all enjoyed the Giants' success this spring, but to get a little idea please check the blog I posted on my MyHockeyBuzz page shortly after Sunday's tilt. (You might also enjoy taking a look at the Trivia Blog that I have just started on the front page of HockeyBuzz as well.) You will note that we all decided to pass on the INSINC video stream in favor of listening to your broadcast because with your call "the pictures" are better! (Many of us are ordering DVDs of the game, but I also recorded your call for posterity as well.) I also had a long talk with Doc Emrick after game one of the Stanley Cup and filled him in on the results of the Memorial Cup which he hopes to be able to get in to tonight's US broadcast of the game.)
This Stanley Cup is not as easy a pick for me as the Memorial Cup as I have many close friends in both organizations. (Anaheim GM Brian Burke has been a good friend of mine since he was a rookie winger with the AHL Maine Mariners in 1977, while Bryan Murray, John Muckler, John Paddock, and Roy Mlakar have also all been friends of mine for 25 to 35 years each.) When all is said and done, however, I will be pulling for the Sens, but still not with the same passion and interest as I have followed the Giants.
I will drop Hayzer a note with my personal congratulations, and I thank you for passing along all my messages along the way. You can be sure that we will all also be following the Giants again next season as well as they begin their defense of the Memorial Cup!
All best wishes for a good (albeit brief) off season, and I'll look forward to hearing your call of the Giants again next Fall!