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Swift Current Broncos
Swift Current Broncos
The Swift Current Broncos play in the Western Hockey League. The team was founded during 1967 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The Broncos played seven seasons before they were relocated to Lethbridge. The Broncos returned to Swift Current, and played there since 1986, at the Centennial Civic Centre.
The Swift Current Broncos Hockey Club was formed in 1966, and this was in the same year that the Western Hockey League was created. The team had not participated in league play that first year. However, they played exhibition games against other league members and intermediate teams. The Broncos competed in league play in 1967, along with Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatoon, Weyburn, Estevan, Edmonton and Calgary. The Broncos operated in the league for 8 years and had such players as Joe Zanussi, Gene Peacosh, Kevin Migneault, Brian Spencer, Dave Schultz, Wayne Forsey, Brent Leavins, Terry Ruskowski, Dave Tiger Williams, and Bryan Trottier. In 1974 after a great season in which Williams, Trottier, and Ruskowski dominated and the team narrowly missed the league championship, the franchise was moved to Lethbridge.
During the next 12 years the Bronco hockey club operated in Tier II (SJHL). It became increasingly obvious that Swift Current fans would not support Tier II. In 1982 a group headed by John Rittinger sold shares to over 150 businesses and individuals, formed a community organization and began to woo the Western Hockey League for a franchise.Over the next four years the group suffered many frustrations as agreements to purchase various franchises fell through one by one. Brent Bilodeau, Trent McCleary, Andy Schneider, Todd Holt, Tyler Wright, and Rick Girard were key contributors to the success of the 1992-93 team. Girard and Ashley Buckberger were subsequently selected in the 2nd round of the NHL Entry Draft (Girard by Vancouver, and Buckberger by Quebec).
The 1993-94 season was successful, yet trying, at the same time. The club was expected to struggle with many veterans gone from the 1992-93 team. However, the team jumped out of the gate early and stayed in the first place hunt until Christmas. From there, though, reality likely set in and the club finished in 4th place.
In the playoffs, the club knocked off Medicine Hat in 3 straight games, before losing to the eventual East Division Champion, Saskatoon Blades. Todd Holt and Rick Girard both had solid seasons in their final year in the WHL. Ian Gordon was the surprise of the year, racking up 6 shutouts. That broke the franchise record of 4 set by Henry Durkin in the early 70's. Rookies Tyler Willis, Ladislav Kohn, and Brad Larsen made impressive debuts in the WHL.
The 1999/00 season was one of the most exciting seasons in Broncos history. The Broncos finished with their second highest point total in team history. The roster included a number of skilled players who made the Broncos one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Canadian Junior Hockey.
The Broncos line-up boasted such names as Layne Ulmer, Jeremy Reich, Lawrence Nycholat, Brett Allan, Jay Langager and number one goalie, Bryce Wandler, who had a career year in the 1999/00 season. Wandler led all WHL goalies in wins, goals against average and save percentage, while winning the WHL's Top Goalie award. Todd McLellan who ended up winning the leagues Coach of the Year award coached the Broncos to their record of 47-21-4.
Before the start of the 2003/04 regular season the Broncos made some minor changes to positions within the front office. Brad McEwen stepped aside as Head Coach, and became the teams GM. Randy Smith took over as Head Coach, while Brian Glynn joined Smith behind the bench as the teams Assistant Coach.
The 2005/06 season started off with a bang for the team, trading away Vancouver Canucks draft choice David Schulz to the Spokane Chiefs in exchange for Ned Lukacevic, a Los Angeles Kings draft pick. In their return to the Western Hockey League Playoffs, the Broncos faced the Medicine Hat Tigers for the 3rd consecutive time. The league leading Medicine Hat Tigers would prove to be too much for the Broncos and swept the series in 4 games, requiring overtime to eliminate the Broncos on home ice in a hard fought game.
The 2006/07 season saw the Broncos make considerable improvements during the regular season over the previous year. The club transferred divisions and joined Brandon, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina, and Moose Jaw in the East Division. The Broncos recorded 33 wins in 2006/07, a 9 win improvement over the 24 wins the team recorded in 2005/06.