Rennie: WHL Final preview; Ty Rattie, playoff MVP history and, Jewel?

Scott Rennie, Managing Editor
@scott_rennie

Maybe all we’ll remember about Ty Rattie is that he’s named after the bull riding champion who is married to Jewel.

Though that’s an absolutely true fact, it’s a weird thing to say, because the Portland Winterhawks winger has followed up a phenomenal 2011-12 season with a whatever-is-better-than-phenomenal playoff — netting 17 goals and 29 points in only 25 playoff games.  It’s a weird thing to say because he’s second-round pick of the St.Louis Blues who should play in the NHL has a 19-year-old next season. And it’s a weird thing to say because he’s very close to winning a WHL playoffs MVP award. But it’s still a possibility.

Today, all those concerned with major junior hockey left of Ontario will have their attention tuned to Edmonton, as Rattie and his teammates prepare to take on the Edmonton Oil Kings at Rexall Place in the first game of the WHL finals. This is A Very Important Game.

One day, though, it will seem less important. And one day we’ll have to double check Hockeydb when we can’t remember what the heck happened in this series. One day, all we’ll remember is the little factoid that the top of this story — that there’s a connection between Pieces of You and a kid from Airdrie, Alberta

But even if this series won’t likely matter in the greater scheme of the universe, it does matter right now, if only because it’s the decider for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

The one blemish for the Oil Kings in the conference finals was a wacky 5-1 affair in Moose Jaw, when the Warriors lost their captain to an emergency appendectomy, and benched their starting goalie for a AAA prospect.

The 4-1 series result isn’t fair to the Warriors, who had their moments — but the goaltending of Laurent Brossoit was something of beauty. (So beauty that because I’m unaware of a connection to Brossoit and Jewel, or any other 90s radio chanteuse, I’m worried that I may not remember his 2012 excellence at all).

The Winterhawks swept aside the Tri-City Americans in their conference finals, where Tri-City goaltender Ty Rimmer ran out of answers for Portland’s offense.

And when it wasn’t Rattie supplying the scoring, it was Brad Ross, who had four points over Games 3 and 4 and was named Dub player of the week for his output.

So the Dub final will feature the high-flying offence of Portland, who peppered at least 45 shots against Rimmer in the series last three games, and Brossoit, who has a 1.62 and .945 SVP through the playoffs. Something, as they say, has to give.

And something will give, and one of these teams, so dominating this far in the playoffs will, obviously, lose this series. Among these very, very good teams there will be a better one. And I know this sounds like I’m cheating my way out of a playoff preview story — but please stay with me.

What I’m thinking about right now is  this list of the last 20 Dub playoff MVPs. I realize that this is sort of an arbitrary award, but it’s a nice indicator of the Dub’s top players through the years.

While there are some players on the list that have gone on to playing quite well in NHL (Cam Ward, Shea Weber, Tyler Myers stick out right away), many of them have gone to illustrious careers in the ECHL, the Central Hockey League, and Europe.

And while fans will forget their playoff heroics (side from any tasty bits of trivia and oddball memories that will outlive their playing days) and the clock will click down on their professional careers — these young men were still playing at their best for the country’s best teams during Very Important Games.

Time will rob them all of something, but not this. These were players who spent their formative years living a Canadian maple-syrup soaked cliche of waking up early for outdoor practice, long bus trips, and summer power-skating camps — and this was the best it ever got. No matter the scope, this is theirs to keep.

As I sat in the stands during Game 4 of the Warriors/Oil Kings series, I thought about how even if the Warriors, down 3-0, could extend the series back to Alberta, they were probably still doomed, and that this season would end.

Every hour of practice, all those regular reason points, management’s deliberation over their deadline trades — it was going to end.

And me and the 4,000 fans at Mosaic Place that night? We’ll probably forget all but the vaguest details of the game.

But for that short amount of time, these were Very Important Games. And maybe that’s the best part about junior hockey — for so many young players (and the fans in the rafters), this is the opportunity to achieve greatness and fame, however fleeting.

So maybe Ty Rattie will be playoff MVP. And maybe he’ll swoop into Shawiningan, Quebec for the Memorial Cup and he’ll help the ‘Hawks capture that too. And for these next couple weeks, it will be the best it ever got.

Whether it’s Rattie, or Laurent Brossoit, or each team’s 20-year-olds who now have to weigh the options of heading to Canadian university hockey or Europe or riding a bus playing for a living wage in central Illinois — the expectations of whatever comes next doesn’t really matter right now. Right now, this is the best it ever got.

And we get to watch. We can handicap how these teams match up, and we can predict how this ends, and we can forecast what this mean’s for anyone’s long-term future. But remember, it’s okay to just watch. And accept that one of these great teams will play just a bit better than the other. These are Very Important Games, sure, but only for right now. Eventually, we’ll forget what happened.

Maybe Rattie doesn’t make much out of his NHL career. Maybe he’s the next Gilbert Brule. What if all we remember is that he is named after the dude who is married to Jewel? So what? At least we got to see him now. At least he got this far.

CM’s Best Guess
Special teams, depth and netminding all tilt Edmonton’s way … if only slightly. I’ll take the Oil Kings in six.

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