April 24th, 2024

Playoff advice from the Tigers 2004 championship team

By JAMES TUBB on March 28, 2024.


Championships live forever and the Medicine Hat Tigers’ 2004 team hopes the 2024 team can share the same legacy they have.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Tigers’ first championship in the 21st century, the title that brought them back on top of the WHL for the first time since 1988.

The 2004 Tigers were the talk of the town as they helped turn the tide of the franchise from a team struggling in the late 90s to a perennial playoff team. Through their own championship experience and 16 playoff wins, there were a lot of lessons learned that can be passed down to this year’s team looking to create their own history, starting with a first-round matchup against the Red Deer Rebels.

Forward Ryan Hollweg, who was a first overall pick by the Tigers in 1999 and was an overager on the championship team, says playoff success comes through taking things one day, one game and one play at a time.

“You can look ahead but you have to take it one game at a time,” Hollweg said. “However that game falls, you look back on it for a minute and then you run away and get ready for the next one. When you lose a game, you have to bounce back right away, you can’t lose two in a row, that kind of mentality. Just enjoying the process and the ride at the end of the day.”

Hollweg says the 2024 Tigers have an opportunity to do something special this season and he says whether they reach the mountain top, they have to enjoy the ride because it’s all part of the lifelong memories.

Goaltender Kevin Nastiuk had five shutouts in the Tigers’ run to the 2004 championship, being named playoff MVP after his 15-save performance in the 4-2 title clinching Game 4 win over the Everett Silvertips. He says the key to success is playing for the guy next to them and having fun along the way.

“Whether you’re 16 years old or you’re a 20-year-old, no matter what your goal is in hockey, whether it’s to play Canadian college or to be drafted, whether it’s to play professional hockey, or whether it’s just to have fun and move on and use your education and do something else,” Nastiuk said. “People always are attracted to winning hockey teams and winning personalities. So just play for each other, play for that common goal, go out there and have fun because it’s the best years of hockey for sure.”

Stefan Meyer was born in Medicine Hat and grew up in Fox Valley but was a Tigers fan through and through before he donned the orange and black. He says the impact they have on the community is second to none and the idea of winning in a city like Medicine Hat and for fans like the Tigers have is motivation enough.

When it comes to playoffs where things get harder and pressure builds, Meyer says it’s about trusting the process and following the same head coach who led them to the promised land in Willie Desjardins.

“Trust the process of the moustache man,” Meyer said. “He’s a fantastic person and a fantastic coach, he cares more about his players, obviously he likes to win, but he cares about his players and how they present themselves and how they go forward.”

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