Chilliwack was never able to take a bite out of the Vancouver Giants in the five years the teams clashed in the Western Hockey League.
All the Giants did was win, win, win no matter what.
But now, six years after that rivalry expired, Chilliwack gets some ice cold revenge with the signing of Harrison Blaisdell.
The 16 year old is the second summer signing of the junior A Chiefs, stolen away from the Giants, who picked the Saskatchewan kid 31st overall in the 2016 WHL bantam draft.
Blaisdell was still in elementary school when Milan Lucic was delivering high elbows to Oscar Moller and doesn’t feel any animosity towards the G-men.
But he’ll be happy if that helps endear him to Chilliwack hockey fans.
“Obviously the WHL is a good way to go, but there are two ways and I think the time and development you get going the college route is good,” Blaisdell said. “You get as much junior hockey as you need and four years in college. It’s a lot more time if you’re not quite ready for the next level.”
Blaisdell comes to town with an NCAA scholarship already secured.
The kid is so good that the University of North Dakota got his signature on a commitment when he was just 15 years old.
Eventually he may play alongside former Chiefs captain Jordan Kawaguchi, who will play his first season with the Fighting Hawks this fall.
Blaisdell made his way to UND for a campus visit during his bantam season and the teenager had already put pen to paper by the time the Giants made him their bantam draft pick. Maybe they thought they could talk him out of it, but Blaisdell never doubted his decision.
“It was a big decision to make, but at the same time it wasn’t a real big deal because my dad did the same thing, going the NCAA route and playing for Wisconsin,” said Blaisdell, who also had strong interest from Denver and Minnesota-Duluth. “I am young and it seems so far away, but I felt like it was the right decision to make at the time and I still feel that way.”
His dad is Mike Blaisdell.
After leaving Wisconsin Mike went on to a 343 game National Hockey League career with Detroit, Toronto and Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers. Very late in his career he crossed paths with a young Jason Tatarnic.
Coach T was winding up his playing career in 1999-00 with the British National League’s Hull Thunder. Mike was the head coach of the British Ice Hockey Super League’s Sheffield Steelers.
In the ‘who you know’ recruiting game, sometimes all you need is a conversation starter.
“Harrison is a kid we’ve been on for a long time because I think he fits the mold of how we like to play,” Tatarnic said. “He’s a typical Sask player where he’s got that grit, but he’s also got skill.
“He can play real hard but he’s got the skill-set to score goals and make plays and there’s a reason he’s going to North Dakota.”
The Penticton Vees and Vernon Vipers were both pursuing Blaisdell before the Chiefs reeled him in. Blaisdell was already leaning towards Chilliwack after spending the 2016 season with Abbotsford’s Yale Hockey Academy.
Seeing Prospera Centre and the Chiefs’ cutting edge training facility made a big impression, and something Tatarnic said helped seal the deal.
“When I asked him about how they play he said, ‘When you cross the red line into the other team’s half of the ice, it’s basically a free for all and have fun down there,’” the teenager said. “They have the mentality to not give up the puck and try to make plays and I thought that was really cool.”
Oh, and also, that Royal Bank Cup thing played a role.
“That’s a no-brainer and definitely a cool thing that I’m excited to be a part of,” Blaisdell said.
Blaisdell spent last season with the Regina Pat Canadians in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
He had 20 goals, 41 points and 60 penalty minutes in 40 regular season games, leading his team to a league championship and an appearance in the Telus Cup national tourney.
“I had a few injuries that set me back at the start of the year, including having my appendix out just before the season started,” Blaisdell said. “That erased a lot of work I’d done over the summer, but around Christmas time I was back to regular form and it was a good season for me.
Online resources (eliteprospects.com) list Blaisdell at five-foot-nine and 163 pounds, which he says is innacurate.
Blaisell pegs himself at five-foot-eleven and 175 and isn’t worried about being overwhelmed by big BCHL blueliners.
“I think if I have a good summer, work on my skills and come in the best shape that I can — if I play the way I think I can I think I can be an impact player next season,” Blaisdell said.
Tatarnic has no problem chucking a 16 year old into the lineup in an RBC Cup year, saying, ‘If he can play, he can play.’”
“Harry can just outright play and him being 16 doesn’t matter,” the coach noted. “If you’re 16 or 20 doesn’t matter. If you’re good you’re good and we’re going to put the best players on the ice.
“Young players have a lot of passion, they’re hungry and they want to prove themselves every day and we feel Harry is going to be one of our best players next year.”
— Blaisdell has just been invited to Hockey Canada’s U-17 development camp, starting July 22 in Calgary, and there’s a chance he may make Canada’s roster for the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup tournament.