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Giants look for return to glory days

Vancouver needed just two seasons to make playoffs and five years to win WHL championship
The inaugural Vancouver Giants WHL team went 13-49-6. But five years later they won the WHL championship and the following year

Nearly 16 years after Langley’s Tyson Mulock scored the first goal in franchise history, the Vancouver Giants are set to embark on their first season at the Langley Events Centre.

Mulock netted the goal in a 5-2 loss to the Kamloops Blazers at the Pacific Coliseum back in September, 2001.

The loss was the first of many for the Giants during that inaugural season, as they entered the Western Hockey League as a major junior expansion team. Vancouver finished with a record of 13-49-6.

They improved by 25 points in their sophomore campaign and made the playoffs but it was in the following seasons that they really took off.

Coach Don Hay took over behind the bench in 2004 and beginning in 2005/06, Vancouver won the first of five consecutive B.C. Division titles.

The team also tasted playoff success, winning the WHL championship — what is now called the Ed Chynoweth Cup —  in 2006.

Vancouver went 16-2 in the playoffs that spring, including sweeping both the conference finals and the league finals.

The Giants would lose in the Memorial Cup, the round-robin championship series for the three champions of the major junior hockey leagues — the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, as well as the host team.

But they would not be denied the following season.

Guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup championships, the Giants nearly won their way there anyway, falling in double overtime of game seven of the WHL finals to the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The Giants would have their revenge however, defeating the Tigers in the 2007 Memorial Cup championship game.

Vancouver Giants captain Brett Festerling receives the Memorial Cup from Canadian Hockey League commissioner David Branch in 2007.

Vancouver would finish either first or second in the B.C. Division the following three seasons, but playoff success has eluded the team. The Giants have missed the WHL playoffs in three of the past four seasons.

From Vancouver to the NHL

This past June saw two of the current Giants get drafted into the NHL, with Tyler Benson going in the second round to the Edmonton Oilers while Ty Ronning went in round seven to the New York Rangers.

They became the 26th and 27th players drafted from the Giants by NHL clubs.

Six of those former Giants are still currently in the NHL: Milan Lucic (Boston), Brendan Gallagher (Montreal), Evander Kane (Buffalo), Cody Franson (Buffalo) and Lance Bouma (Calgary).

Record holders

Kane holds the franchise record with 48 goals in a season while Casey Pierro-Zabotel holds the mark in assists (79) and points (115).

Gallagher is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 136 goals and 280 points, while Blum’s 155 assists are tops in team history.

In goal, Tyson Sexsmith set the franchise standard with 120 victories and 26 shutouts. Dustin Slade holds the single-season mark with a 1.31 goals against average and a .938 save percentage, as well as a season-high six shutouts, a WHL record.

The team has eight players in their Ring of Honour — Brett Festerling, Andrej Meszaros, Mark Fistric, Gilbert Brule, Lucic, Franson, Kane and Gallagher.

Glen Hanlon is just the team’s second general manager, having taken over for Scott Bonner, while Jason McKee is the franchise’s seventh head coach.

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