Obituary: Jack Shupe guided Victoria Cougars through glory days

Jack Shupe, always a gentleman when the game of hockey was rougher, coached the Victoria Cougars to their greatest glory days in the Western Hockey League.

Shupe died Wednesday night in Medicine Hat, Alta., at the age of 89.

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Shupe never had a losing record during his five seasons on the Cougars bench at the old Memorial Arena on Blanshard Street, where Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre now stands. He amassed a combined regular-season record of 222-116-22 with Cougars rosters that spanned the days of Curt Fraser, Gary Lupul and Geordie Robertson to Grant Fuhr, Barry Pederson, Brad Palmer, Greg Adams, Mark Morrison, Torrie Robertson, Paul Cyr, Rich Chernomaz, Tony Feltrin and Geoff Courtnall.

Shupe is 10th on the all-time WHL career list for coaching victories with 466, compiled during his five seasons in Victoria, and six coaching the Medicine Hat Tigers. He eschewed the more violent aspects that infiltrated the game in that era and instead relied on teams built on skill and speed.

The high points in Victoria were 1979-80, when his Cougars made their first WHL playoff final only to lose to Doug Wickenheiser and the Regina Pats, and 1980-81, when the Cougars won the WHL championship for the first time and advanced to the B.C. capital’s first and still only Memorial Cup appearance.

Shupe’s 1980-81 Cougars team was historic and its 60 victories still stand as the most wins by a WHL and Canadian Hockey League team in a season.

“Jack related to his players really well,” said John Bate, the former assistant manager of Memorial Arena and one of Shupe’s closest friends.

“He was a players’ coach.”

And one who demanded class on and off the ice.

“The players would have to dress up [even travelling] wherever they went when representing the team and they always were required to look sharp. And the boys respected that.”

Shupe came to the Cougars after coaching in Medicine Hat for six seasons in an era that included Tigers players Lanny McDonald, Tom Lysiak, Stan Weir and Don Murdoch. Shupe guided the Tigers to the 1972-73 WHL championship and his first Memorial Cup appearance.

Shupe closed out his head coaching career with the Langley Eagles in the B.C. Hockey League and Lloydminster Lancers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Jack Shupe was predeceased by wife Lila Shupe in 2017. The couple had four children, Judy (Denis Gagnon) Shupe, Jill (Keith Gladu) Shupe, Jane Shupe, Jerry (Nicole) Shupe and four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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