Montrose’s Glen Sanders will join former Trail hockey player Ryan Huska in Vancouver on Thursday as part of the 1994-95 Kamloops Blazers Memorial Cup champion hockey team to be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame (BCHOF).
Sanders will enter the Hall as a scout for the Blazers, joining the likes of Huska, current head coach for the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League, Blazers coach Don Hay, and Blazer NHLers Jerome Iginla, Darcy Tucker, Nolan Baumgartner, Shane Doan, Brad Lukowich, Tyson Nash, and Jason Strudwick.
“It’s exciting, and I’m glad; I’m just one of two scouts that got invited to go in, so it’s a bit of an honour,” said Sanders from Buffalo, N.Y. where he is participating in the NHL Scouting Combine for the Nashville Predators.
During Sanders 12 years with Kamloops as a scout, 1984-97, the Blazers won six WHL championships, and three Memorial Cup titles in six appearances.
“There were so many good players, it was a dominant team from start to finish,” said Sanders. “I got (scouted) a lot of them. I was pretty lucky we had a lot of Kootenay kids on the team that year, quite a few kids from Cranbrook and Trail.”
Sanders scouting career began in earnest in Kamloops after current Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, who was then the coach and only scout of the Blazers, hired Sanders as a paid scout.
“That was unheard of back then,” said Sanders. “We were one of the few guys to get a couple of dollars out of the hockey team to run around and pick players up.”
However, the pay didn’t enable Sanders to quit his day-job at Teck, and he’d travel around western Canada to tournaments and games on weekends and return to his home in Montrose Sunday night to get ready for work. But with Sanders as scout in the pre-Bantam draft days, Kamloops had a decided edge when it came to identifying young players, many of whom he recruited but went on to thrive elsewhere.
“I had a lot of guys, I had Adam Deadmarsh up there, Travis Green, all those kids, Steve Junker. They didn’t all make our team, but they went on to become very good players.”
In those early days, the Blazers were pioneers when it came to scouting. With no template to follow, everything Sanders and the organization did was precedent-setting.
“We had no guidelines, obviously we didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have computers, we didn’t have any of that. We had to find out games by phoning coaches and people. You’d show up at a rink in some little town and the game was cancelled and nobody knew, so there was a lot of different things back in the old days, it was kind of interesting. Of course now we all have these rink-net programs. Everything is on there, you get alerts before and after. It was a different, different game and it’s come a long way.”
Not only was Sanders and the Blazers pioneers in the scouting arena, their success caused the rest of the WHL to follow suit, and in 1995 the league introduced the Bantam Draft in an attempt to even the playing field.
“We were kind of the pioneers of the day, it was kind of run and gun and what we were doing, or how we were doing it, we just went out and did it.
“After about ‘97 the scouts that we’d had, we all took off to take other jobs. Kamloops had to start all over again, and most of the guys (scouts) had moved on to bigger and better things, that we had started. It was pretty exciting, we had a small group of guys, that were really close and worked hard, and we had fun.”
Sanders left the Blazers to take the General Manager reins of the Trail Smoke Eaters when they joined the BCHL. After three years as GM, thoughts of retirement from hockey were shelved when he helped out former Blazers player Todd Ripplinger scout for the WHL Regina Pats. In 2004 Sanders got a call from the Nashville Predators where he remains today as full-time scout for western Canada.
Sanders watches up to 140 games per season, with extensive travel and time away from home. Following the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, Sanders returns to BC to attend the BCSHOF ceremony in Vancouver Thursday, and has a brief time off before attending the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo.
“It’s been fun. It’s a great job. It wears you out, by this time of year you’re tired of hockey but it’s a job you couldn’t pass up on,” said Sanders, who also thanked his family for its unwavering support.
The 1993-94 and 1994-95 Kamloops Blazers were previously inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. The 1994-95 Kamloops Blazers were ranked number-1 in the CHL from the start to the end of the season. The season culminated with an 8-2 win over the Detroit Jr. Red Wings on home ice May 21, 1995. It was the Blazers third Memorial Cup title in four seasons.