Nineteen years ago, Trevor Blevins was just a teenager from Melfort, Sask., trying to win a national title.
As an alternate captain with his hometown Mustangs, Blevins and his teammates played host to the 1996 Royal Bank Cup, Canada’s National Junior A
Championship, the first played under the RBC banner.
“The competition was something I don't really remember too much about other than that it was a long time ago,” said Blevins, now head coach of the
Mustangs. “I remember it being a great experience and a lot of fun to be a part of ... to be able to play in a national event was a thrill of a lifetime.”
Now, Blevins is back at the tournament behind the bench with a strong and committed Mustangs team.
“We've set goals all through the season and this was definitely one of them,” he said. “The hard work, the effort and the commitment from our players all
season was phenomenal. They deserve it - they have put in the time on and off the ice.”
Blevins hasn't discussed his 1996 experience with his players because he knows that they have already made their own history, including finishing atop the
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular season standings for the first time ever, and repeating the ’96 team’s feat of winning the SJHL title.
“I've never really talked about the team that I was on or how successful we were with this group we have now,” said Blevins. “They've made their own
history and they will continue to write their own history. They have really done this on their own and have done a great job of going out and playing the
game the way it should be played.”
The team will be able to draw on their own experience through this season, especially at the Western Canada Cup where they squeezed into the playoff round
and upended the host Fort McMurray Oil Barons to earn their RBC Cup berth.
“We have experienced a similar tournament and we have the same schedule – we play games at the exact same times, so I think that will help us too,” said
Blevins. “I think that will help us going forward this week at the national championship.”
The Mustangs went 39-8-3-6 in league play and an impressive 12-2 in the playoffs, capped off with a four-game sweep of the Notre Dame Hounds to claim the
“Our teams are very similar,” said Blevins says of the 1996 and 2015 Mustangs. “We are hoping for a different outcome this year and I think we have the
team for that.”
It was a heartbreaking loss back in 1996 for the Mustangs and the hockey hotbed community of Melfort, as the tournament hosts dropped a 2-0 decision in the
final to the Vernon Vipers.
“We breezed through the round robin and the semifinal. We weren't really tested in a close game,” said Blevins. “We ran into a hot goaltender during the
final and we lost. It was the first time we were shut out all year. It wasn't from a lack of effort and we outplayed them. The score didn't come through
for us, but that's hockey and that's why you play the game. It was a great experience to finish second in Canada.”
As much as Blevins is excited to be back at the RBC Cup to chase down that national championship, it isn’t about redemption for him as much as seeing this
group continue to succeed.
“It really isn't about me. I really want this for our team and players,” said Blevins. “They deserve it and they have put all the work and preparations in.
They can write their own ending.”
Both the Mustangs and Blevins are hoping for a much different, and happier, finale 19 years later.
“We aren't going there not to win it. We definitely want to win it and we believe we have the group to do it,” said Blevins. “We have that confidence that
we can be committed and have a legitimate shot at a national championship.”