By Ryan McCracken on April 17, 2017.
Sixteen hats. That’s the playoff plan.
For years the Medicine Hat Tigers have kept a simple but effective playoff tradition alive behind their dressing room doors. At the end of every victory, the coaching staff picks the evening’s most deserving player to add a one-of-a-kind playoff hat to their stall.
“We’ll write the score, the team, the series and the date. Then as a coaching staff we select the guy that we feel is most deserving,” said Tigers assistant coach Bobby Fox. “It could be a combination of things, it could be a big goal, it could be a blocked shot or some intangibles — whoever we thought was the game’s star.”
“We’ve done it for years and years,” added Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston. “Sometimes there’s a game puck or a game ball in football. It’s just a memento that hopefully recognizes a player who made a significant impact on that win.”
Mark Rassell kicked off the collection after netting a hat trick in Medicine Hat’s 7-2 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals, then new netminder Michael Bullion stole the spotlight the following night with a lights out performance between the posts.
Defenceman David Quenneville earned the ball cap when the series shifted to Dauphin for Game 3 — netting a goal and adding two helpers to push his brothers’ former squad to the brink of elimination — before John Dahlstrom rounded out the first round with a tireless effort the next night.
After five seasons and 302 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Chad Butcher checked a playoff cap off his list of career to-dos with a goal and an assist in their series-opening win over Lethbridge. While it’s a feather in his proverbial cap, Butcher says it’s also an indication that he is fulfilling his role as one of Medicine Hat’s leaders.
“Playoffs is a big time of year and the older guys are expected to lead. So far we’ve done a great job,” said Butcher, who was pivotal in avoiding disaster against the Hurricanes. “That’s part of our job and we need to continue to do that moving forward.”
For players like Dahlstrom, who earned his second cap after scoring the overtime winner in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, it’s a sign of stepping up.
“Inside the team it’s a big thing for us so I really appreciate it,” said Dahlstrom. “It’s really nice to get a hat.”
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