(This article was originally published on Mar. 15, 2021)
In their 26 year history, the Victoria Grizzlies have played in the RBC Cup only once. In 2009, they hosted the tournament at The Q Centre. As covered in a previous article, the Grizzlies were eliminated in the semi-finals of the tournament by the Humboldt Broncos.
When the Grizzlies were known as the Salsa, they came close to qualifying for the tournament. The Salsa were league champions in 2001, defeating the Merritt Centennials in the Fred Page Cup. This win qualified them for the Doyle Cup.
In Canadian junior A hockey, there are several regional series before the national tournament takes place. The Doyle Cup is one of these series. It determines the Pacific Region representative for the Centennial Cup.
In 2001, the Victoria Salsa was BC Hockey League champions and the Camrose Kodiaks were Alberta Junior Hockey League champions. With this article, I want to cover the series between the Salsa and the Kodiaks. I also want to cover the road each team took to the series and the aftermath.
Before that though – a brief profile of the Kodiaks franchise.
The Camrose Kodiaks were established in 1997. Since then, they’ve become one of the most successful teams in the AJHL. Camrose has made the playoffs every season of their existence except for their first season.
The Kodiaks have been very successful too, winning six division titles, five league championships, and five Doyle Cups. The Kodiaks have also won three silver medals at the national junior A championships and one RBC Cup win. 2001 was the first time the Kodiaks qualified for the Doyle Cup.
Meanwhile, this was the first time the Salsa qualified for the Doyle Cup. It was only their seventh season in the league and fourth playoff appearance. Led by head coach Campbell Blair, the Salsa started the 2001 playoffs in the elimination round.
Road to the Doyle Cup
In the elimination round, the Salsa faced the rival Nanaimo Clippers. The Clippers finished ahead of the Salsa in the standings, but despite that, Victoria upset Nanaimo in seven games.
In the quarterfinals, Victoria faced the South Surrey Eagles and swept them 3-0. In the semifinals, the Salsa faced the Burnaby Bulldogs and won in seven games.
In the Fred Page Cup final, the Salsa faced off against the Centennials. Merritt defeated the Prince George Spruce Kings and Penticton Panthers to reach the league final.
In the end, the Salsa defeated the Cents in a thrilling seven game series. The win qualified Victoria for the Doyle Cup.
Meanwhile, the Camrose Kodiaks entered the playoffs finishing first in the AJHL’s South Division. They faced the Calgary Royals in the quarterfinals, defeating them in six games.
In the semifinals, the Kodiaks defeated the Grand Prairie Storm in five games and then knocked off Drayton Valley in the AJHL championship final, also in five games.
The 2001 Doyle Cup series
Because of the distance between Victoria and Camrose, their first three games were hosted by the Salsa.
Victoria opened the series with a 5-3 win. After game one though, the Kodiaks took control. Camrose won games two and three by identical 4-3 scores.
Game four saw the series shift to Alberta. While Victoria claimed game four 3-1, they lost game five 3-2 in overtime and game six 5-2 and the Kodiaks claimed the series on home ice.
With that loss, Victoria’s playoff run ended. With that win, Camrose continued to the 2001 RBC Cup.
After their win in the Doyle Cup, the Kodiaks went on to the RBC Cup in Flin Flon, Manitoba. The Kodiaks represented the Pacific while the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Weyburn Red Wings represented the West.
Representing Central Canada was the Thornhill Rattlers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and Eastern Canada was represented by the Quebec Junior Hockey League’s St. Jerome Panthers.
The Flin Flon Bombers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League was the host team. The Bombers faced the Kodiaks in the final but lost 5-0 and Camrose won the national junior A championship.
Since then, the Kodiaks have won the Doyle Cup four times, but 2001 was their only RBC Cup win.
Meanwhile, Victoria returned to the post-season 16 times over the next 20 seasons. As mentioned earlier, the Grizzlies also hosted the 2009 RBC Cup.
However, Victoria and Camrose’s junior A franchises haven’t crossed paths since that eventful series in the spring of 2001.