THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — The National Hockey League playoffs began this week and all but three of the 16 teams that made it to the first round have a player that at some point played for Kamloops or Kelowna during their Western Hockey League career.
In total, 17 former Blazers or Rockets are playing in the playoffs right now while another nine are in coaching or management positions.
Even more impressive is the number of former Rockets currently playing. Only four teams in the running for the Stanley Cup do not have a former Kelowna player on the roster.
In total a fifth of all players in the NHL this season, 187 of 983, were part of the WHL at one point and another 70 WHL graduates are currently in coaching or management positions.
Another half dozen players and staffers have also played with the Penticton or Vernon teams of the B.C. Hockey League at some point in their career.
Nolan Yonkman, Kelowna Rockets
Asst. Coach Scott Niedermayer, Kamloops Blazers
Jarome Iginla, Kamloops Blazers
Duncan Keith, Kelowna Rockets (and lived in Penticton as a teenager)
Kris Versteeg, Kamloops Blazers
Tyson Barrie, Kelowna Rockets
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Blake Comeau, Kelowna Rockets
Ryan Johansen, Penticton Vees
Jamie Benn, Kelowna Rockets (older brother Jordie also plays for the Stars)
Vernon Fiddler, Kelowna Rockets
Advisor, Hockey Ops. Mark Recchi, Kamloops Blazers (from Kamloops)
Scout, Dennis Holland, Vernon Lakers
DETROIT RED WINGS
Mitch Callahan, Kelowna Rockets
GM, Ken Holland, Vernon Vikings
Head Coach Mike Babcock, Kelowna Wings
Asst. Coach Tom Renney, Kamloops Blazers
Scout, Marty Stein, Vernon Essos
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Robyn Regehr, Kamloops Blazers
Dir. Goaltender Development Kim Dillabaugh, Kelowna Rockets
Brett Bulmer, Kelowna Rockets
Asst. Coach Darryl Sydor, Kamloops Blazers
Josh Gorges, Kelowna Rockets (from Kelowna)
Travis Moen, Kelowna Rockets
Luke Schenn, Kelowna Rockets
Head Coach Craig Berube, Kamloops Jr. Oilers/Blazers
Chuck Kobasew, Kelowna Rockets
Beau Bennett, Penticton Vees
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Scott Hannan, Kelowna/Tacoma Rockets
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, Kamloops Blazers
Goaltending Consultant Corey Hirsch, Kamloops Blazers
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Eric Brewer (from Vernon)
Round one of the playoffs will conclude by the end of the month. The top four teams in each conference will then face-off to determine who will play in the Western and Eastern Conference finals. The winners of each conference will then play for the Stanley Cup. Each series is a best of seven format, taking a minimum of four games to determine a winner.
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-This story was updated at 10 p.m., April 17 to correct the spelling of Beau Bennett.