FORMER GREAT TO BE HONOURED

Feb 22, 2007 - 00:00 GMT

Brandon, Manitoba -- A former scoring star with the Brandon Wheat Kings and a long-time member of the National Hockey League's New York Rangers will be honoured by Manitoba Blue Cross and the Western Hockey League Eastern Division leaders during Friday's game against the visiting Swift Current Broncos at the Keystone Centre.

r

The Wheat Kings are pleased to announce that Bill Fairbairn has been chosen - by western Manitoba hockey fans - as February's Manitoba Blue Cross Performer of the Month. A presentation to the local product, who was recently selected for induction into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, will be made during the first intermission of Friday night's game.

r

As a member of both the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Junior Hockey League's Wheat Kings from 1964-67, Fairbairn scored 125 goals and 315 points in 174 games. During his final season in '66-67 - the year before Brandon made the move to the Western Canada Hockey League - he finished among the league leaders with 60 goals and 142 points in 55 regular season games while playing alongside Juha Widing and Erv Zeimer. Following the playoffs that year, he was loaned to Port Arthur for the '67 Memorial Cup.

r

Nicknamed “Bulldog” for his tenacity on the ice, Fairbairn played two seasons with the Central Hockey League's Omaha Knights before joining the Rangers in 1969.

r

During an impressive rookie season that saw the popular right-winger score 23 goals and 56 points, he replaced the injured Bob Nevin on a line with Dave Balon and Walt Tkaczuk - a line that became known as the “Bulldog Line“. Fairbairn would later finish second to Chicago's Tony Esposito for the Calder Trophy as the league's Rookie of the Year.

r

Fairbairn remained a regular on the Broadway Blueshirts for the next six years and helped New York make it to the '72 Stanley Cup finals. His best year was in 1972-73 when he scored 30 goals and 63 points.

r

His final three years were split between the Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues. During his NHL career, Fairbairn had 162 goals and 423 points in 658 games.

r

In April, Fairbairn will be one of ten individuals and two teams - including the '78-79 Wheat Kings - that will be inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame & Museum as Brandon's Keystone Centre will proudly host the first ever Regional Induction Ceremonies.

r

Fairbairn becomes the fourth Manitoba Blue Cross Performer of the Month recipient for the 2006-07 campaign. During the past three seasons, western Manitoba hockey fans have been given the opportunity to visit the hockey club's official web site and nominate coaches, volunteers, officials for this prestigious award.

r

On the ice, the Wheat Kings will be looking to inch closer to their fourth Eastern Division pennant in six years this weekend when they play host to the Swift Current Broncos on Friday and the second place Regina Pats on Saturday night. A 2-0 victory over the visiting Kootenay Ice Wednesday gave Brandon a 15-point cushion atop the division entering weekend play. Tyler Plante turned aside 39 shots including nineteen in the third period and Rob Klinkhammer scored the game winner at the 2:24 mark of the third period as the Wheat Kings improved their record to 33-19-2-8 on the season. Jeff Topilko meanwhile ran his season high point scoring streak to seven games.

r

Brandon's magic number to clinch their tenth East Division title is ten points. Any combination of Wheat King wins or Regina losses totalling 10 points would clinch this year's pennant for the Wheat Kings, who currently remain third in the Eastern Conference - one point up on fourth place Calgary.

r

Tickets to this weekend's games at the Keystone Centre are on sale now at the box office, by calling 726-3555 or online at ticketmaster.ca

r

 

r