The greatest day in Raiders history

Photo Courtesy of the Prince Albert Raiders Captain Dan Hodgson hoists the Memorial Cup after the Prince Albert Raiders’ 6-1 win over the Shawinigan Cataractes on May 18, 1985 in Drummondville, Que.

A look back at the 1985 Memorial Cup final

The first time that I ever heard about the Prince Albert Raiders was when I was eight years old.

Prior to the start of the 1996-97 Ontario Hockey League season, my local CTV station celebrated the 25th anniversary season of my hometown Soo Greyhounds by showcasing some of the biggest moments in team history.

Back in the 1984-85 campaign, the Greyhounds went 33-0 at home and captured their first-ever league title to earn the trip to the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan/Drummondville, Que.

That’s when the Raiders showed up, as numerous clips of Dan Hodgson and company running wild on the Greyhounds showed up from their 8-3 semifinal win.

So I knew at an early age the 1985 Raiders were an incredible club, but I had never seen that squad over the course of a full game.

Fast-forward 24 years and thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I finally had the chance to see just how good the best team in franchise history was.

The 1985 Memorial Cup final between the Raiders and the host Shawinigan Cataractes was posted online nearly a year ago, with my good friend Phil Heilman stumbling across it last summer.

With Monday marking the 35th anniversary of the Raiders biggest game, it seemed like the perfect time to watch the contest.

The first thing that stood out, other than the old Cooperalls that every team was wearing, was the enthusiasm that the CTV broadcast crew had for the individual honours.

Sure the winning team would get to hoist the Memorial Cup, but the tournament’s most valuable player was going to get a colour television from Mitsubishi, the most sportsmanlike player would get a quartz watch and the three stars of the championship contest would get medals and a Brut sports bag.

If you were one to partake in a drinking game while watching the contest, you would be a hurting unit by the time the first period ended with how many times it was mentioned.

The other standout moment came moments before the puck was dropped.

“Tickets are at a premium for this championship game,” announcer Bernie Pascall said. “They were selling standing room tickets for $6 each this morning.”

By comparison, ticket prices for the 2019 Memorial Cup final between the Halifax Mooseheads and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies ranged in price from $50 to $75.

It didn’t take long for the Raiders to quiet down the Cataractes fans, who had to travel to Drummondville for the rest of the tournament after just two days because the support columns at their home rink made it impossible for televising any games.

Dean Braham found the back of the net just 15 seconds after the puck was dropped to give the WHL champions a 1-0 lead, in what was probably the only quality chance the Raiders had all period.

The rest of the opening frame belonged to Ward Komonosky, as he stymied the Shawinigan shooters on every opportunity as he made 11 saves in the first 20 minutes.

His best work came early in the frame, as the Cataractes 160-point man Marc Damphousse barreled in on goal and had a chance to tie things up on a breakaway, but was turned aside.

Then came the second period, where things went Prince Albert’s way.

Well, I think that’s how the first six minutes of the period went, as the CTV broadcast went down with technical difficulties, which meant that no one got to see Ken Baumgartner exchange pleasantries with Shawinigan’s Steven Masse.

We were treated to the dulcet tones of Axel F though, so that was nice.

As it turned out, we had only missed the 3-0 goal by the Raiders, which Pat Elynuik scored a few minutes after Steve Gotaas lit the lamp.

The return to the airwaves also provided us with a Curtis Hunt sighting, as the current Raiders general manager made a hit on Sergio Momesso that would have been a double-digit game suspension if had taken place today.

As a whole though, the period belonged to Manny Viveiros as he scored a goal and had three assists to give his team a 5-0 lead.

The key moments came with a few minutes left in the second stanza, as he capitalized on a loose puck to score a breakaway goal and then fed the puck to Gotaas’ 14 seconds later for his second marker of the game.

Mario Belanger and Tony Grenier traded goals in the third period, but it was more or less a coronation at that point as the Raiders cruised to the Memorial Cup title in just their third season in the WHL.

Viveiros and Gotaas were the second and third stars of the contest, but the player of the game honours belonged to Komonosky after a 27-save showing.

“Everyone cuts him down all season and says the Raiders aren’t going to go anywhere because of their goaltending, but the big guy slammed the door and kicked the lights out today,” said Hodgson, who received the prized colour television for being named tournament MVP and a trip to Hawaii from Canadian Pacific Air Lines for earning the CHL’s player of the year award.

While Hodgson’s dominance during the 1985 tournament is still talked about to this day after he posted 15 points in five games, it was a total team effort in the final.

In a way, it reminded of what we saw last year during the Raiders’ WHL title run last year, as different players came up big during each of the four series.

For those who were too young to see the Raiders win it all in 1985, the Memorial Cup final is well worth going out of your way to see.