Big news: Clovechok will miss home game

Andy Clovechok is known as Mr. Hockey around here for a whole lot of reasons.

One of them is that he has never - and that's never, as in ever - missed a home game involving his beloved Kamloops Blazers.

"When did we become the Blazers?" Clovechok said. "This will be the first home game I've missed. I kid you not."

The Kamloops Junior Oilers morphed into the Blazers in time for the 1984-85 season. Since then, Clovechok has sat through 1,008 regular-season and 143 playoff games.

Before tonight, that is.

Not only will Clovechok, 88, miss the Blazers' home-opener tonight at Interior Savings Centre, he will be at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver wearing - GULP! - the same jersey that the Vancouver Giants will be wearing as they start their WHL regular season.

But that's OK. The citizens of Kamloops will forgive Clovechok. After all, he is in Vancouver where he was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday night during the 44th annual Banquet of Champions and to be saluted at tonight's Giants game.

Clovechok, who is joined this weekend by Molly, his wife of 65 years, was a key member of the 1945-46 Vancouver Canucks, the only team in history to have won the Pacific Coast Hockey League and U.S. amateur championships. Clovechok, who played left wing on a line with right-winger Alex Pringle and centre Bernie Bathgate, won the PCHL scoring championship, putting up 103 points, including 56 goals, in 54 games.

The Giants will be wearing throwback uniforms in honour of the Canucks. Clovechok will pull on one of the jerseys for a pregame ceremony.

Clovechok said his Canucks were a "very good" team.

They beat the Hollywood Wolves 4-1 in a best-of-seven PCHL final and then challenged the Eastern league-champion Boston Olympics for the U.S. amateur championship.

That series was played in its entirety in the Vancouver Forum. The Olympics jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but the Canucks came back to win the next three games and claim the title.

"The next season," Clovechok remembered, "eight of Boston's 14 players were playing in the National Hockey League. That's how good they were.

"We were fortunate. All the games were played here."

There are only three surviving members of that Vancouver team - Clovechok, Ernie Dougherty and Marvin Storrow, who was the team's stickboy.

Clovechok said that he "met our stickboy who was 11 years old" at a Wednesday reception. Storrow went on to become a well-known Vancouver lawyer and, in fact, was retained by the NHL during the criminal trial that occurred after Marty McSorley, then of the Boston Bruins, was charged with assault with assault with a weapon after Canucks forward Donald Brashear took a stick to the side of his head in February 2000.

"I didn't recognize (Storrow)," Clovechok said with a chuckle. "He has grown a little older, like me."

As the 1945-46 season got started, Canucks head coach Paul Thompson put Pringle and Bathgate together, but needed another winger.

"There was a spot open on the left side," recalled Clovechok, a right-hand shot who was a natural centre. "The coach said to me, 'Andy, have you ever played left wing before?' I said, 'Yes,' but that wasn't quite so.

"But we turned out to be one of the best lines in the league."

At that time, the 6-foot-0 Clovechok was one of the PCHL's taller players, but he weighed only 165 pounds.

"I reminded you of a matchstick with the wood shaved off," a laughing Clovechok said.

No matter, because he could play the game.

Asked how many goals he would score in today's game, he said: "The goals at that time were 4x6 and they're still 4x6, but the goalkeepers are a lot bigger.

"I'd probably get 20."

When it was pointed out that would be a lot of goals for an 89-year-old, he laughed.

In 1945-46, as he was winning the PCHL scoring title, Clovechok said he "got the huge sum of $60 a week. And I played with a borrowed pair of skates. But they did fit."

The next season, as the reigning scoring champ, he got a new pair of skates.

"I think they were $40," he said. "They fit real well. At that price in those days, they should have."

They must have, because they helped get the Blazer Legend into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

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