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Original Moose Jaw champs advise Warriors to bring 'confidence' to Memorial Cup

Moose Jaw, Sask. -

The Moose Jaw Warriors are headed to the Memorial Cup as WHL Champions, the first time a Moose Jaw team has ever appeared in the tournament.

It’s not an opportunity the Moose Jaw Canucks were awarded in 1967, playing in the first season of the league that would eventually become the Western Hockey League.

Considered an ‘outlaw league’ at the time, the team was ineligible to compete for the Memorial Cup – despite winning the league championship that year in five games over the Regina Pats.

However, they did take down the defending Memorial Cup champions – the Edmonton Oil Kings – earlier in that year’s playoffs.

“The first game I think we lost 9-0, everybody was all, 'Oh it's going to be over pretty quick,' but no, we kept fighting back and we kept fighting back,” Garth Rizzuto, a member of that year’s Canucks team, told CTV News.

Rizzuto said he loved his time playing junior hockey in Moose Jaw, but the nine game series with Edmonton is a highlight.

“We went to Edmonton on the 9th game, and we beat them. We beat them out,” Rizzuto said. "It was like a fairy tale year, and the crowd went crazy."

The momentum from that win would propel the Canucks to the league title, similar to the effect of this year’s razor-thin seven game series between the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Saskatoon Blades in the Eastern Conference Final.

“That Saskatoon series was the key to getting this far,” Moose Jaw Warriors fan Jim Magnaye said outside the arena Thursday.

“Generations of Warriors fans, since 1984 have been waiting for this and it's awesome to see them deliver,” said Billy Ravneck, owner of Moose Jaw’s Ultimate Fan Zone.

Another factor in the Warriors’ historic win has been the growing support of the community throughout the run.

“We were at home and I heard horns honking, and we're on south hill,” said Jackie Sjodin, who lives in Moose Jaw.

“The game sold out so fast we weren’t able to get tickets for last night,” Kimberley Parker said, adding she was watching the game on TSN.

"You can look around right now, it's insane. The support we got throughout the entire playoffs and we appreciate all of it,” Warriors forward Jagger Firkus said after Wednesday’s game.

But focus will soon turn from celebration to preparation, as the team gets ready to depart for Saginaw, Michigan for the Memorial Cup.

Rizzuto advises current Warriors to keep playing their game.

“Recognize what got you there,” Rizzuto said. “If you’re a checker, you’re going to check. If you’re a goal scorer, you’re going to score goals. If you’re a grinder, play the body. Play your game and don’t let them put you off your game.”

“When you drop that puck, you got to have the confidence and you got to just say, 'I'm going to win'. If you do that, you have a good chance of going all the way,” Rizzuto said. "They're a great team, I think physically they can take it to the other clubs."

Rizzuto said he’ll be watching this team at the Memorial Cup, as will many Moose Jaw residents.

“I don’t think before we’ve ever had a team like this, and I think we might have what it takes to get to the Memorial Cup and win it,” said Moose Jaw Mayor Clive Tolley.

“The whole entire community is behind you, and we’re all at home cheering for you,” Parker said.

“It's the most resilient, hard working group I've seen and never out of a game, ever,” Ravneck said.

The Memorial Cup gets underway May 24 in Saginaw. Moose Jaw is set to play in the first game of the round robin against the host team, the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit. Top Stories

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