Kamloops is a city of 90,000 located at the confluence of the North and South branches of the Thompson River in south-central British Columbia.
Several varieties of salmon can be found in the Thompson, including an extra-large run of sockeye. There are also trout streams of note as the united river travels 10 miles to Kamloops Lake.
Beyond fishing, the locals also offer solid backing for the Kamloops Blazers, a Western Hockey League junior team that has been located in the city for 40 years.
Dean Evason played 44 games for Kamloops in its first WHL season in 1981-82. They were initially called the Junior Oilers.
Later, Evason would have his first head coaching job with the Kamloops Blazers for the 1999-2000 season. The WHL franchise had taken on that name starting in the fall of 1984, which by happenstance was a few months after Evason had played himself directly into the NHL.
Evason put up 164 points in 70 games for the Junior Oilers in 1982-83, and then 137 in 57 games in 1983-84.
"Dean was a tremendous junior player," Don Hay said. "I remember a goal he scored in '84 in the sixth game of a playoff series that kept Kamloops alive.
"And then we won Game 7 and went to the Memorial Cup as the WHL champs."
That Kamloops team lost in the semis. Eight seasons later, Hay was an assistant when the Blazers won a first Memorial Cup in 1992, and then was the head coach of back-to-back Memorial Cup winners in 1994 and 1995.
This information is coming to you indirectly from Angie Mercuri, the Blazers' current director of business operations.
I called the Blazers office to find out if anyone still was around from Evason's three-season Kamloops coaching tenure, and Mercuri answered the phone.
"No, but why don't you call Haysie?" she said. "Haysie's from here. He would be able to tell you about Dean in Kamloops. Call Haysie."
Angie had the number, and I called Haysie, and Don Hay called back while he was driving to a home game for the Portland (Ore.) Winterhawks, a WHL team for which he's serving as the associate head coach.
Hay was an assistant coach in Calgary when the Flames signed Evason for Dean's 10th season in the NHL.
"We signed him as a veteran presence," Hay said. "Dean's knowledge of the game was outstanding. You could see right then that he was going to have a great feeling for teaching younger guys, if he got a chance to be a coach.
"I've watched some Wild games. They play with a lot of speed. That's a credit to Dean."
By growing up in British Columbia, playing in any league that would have him for a decade, coaching for 40 years and having a proper hockey nickname, it's clear a "Haysie" observation carries more clout than a guy who was raised watching bullheads jump at the Avoca Dam in southwest Minnesota, not salmon in the Thompson River.
Yet, that's what I've been saying for a while now:
Our Wild-ings are doing something new with Evason. They are playing fast. And if it gets a little loose at times, so what?
"That's the biggest difference with this team," said Pat Micheletti, Gophers legend and analyst of all things hockey. "When you're watching them, you don't have to pray to God they can figure out a way to score a goal.
"If they are behind a goal halfway through the third period, they can score a goal. I'd say part of the reason is that Dean has players that will listen and with enough talent to play the way he wants them to play. I'd say another part is this is also the way the General Manager [Bill Guerin] wants them to play.
"And, of course, there's the other factor."
Yes? "They have [Kirill] Kaprizov," Micheletti said. "Any time he's on the ice, there's a chance to score a goal.
"People were freaking out 20 games ago when he only had two goals. The goals were going to come. What counted was he was piling up assists.
"This guy … he wants to be the best player in the world. He's not there.
Here's what was the upset to me when it comes to Evason:
When Bruce Boudreau was fired as the Wild coach and replaced by assistant Evason after 57 games in what became the interrupted 2019-20 season, my assumption was we would get the traditional NHL spiel that comes with these changes:
"We have to tighten up the defense."
Nope. What we got from Evason, on the ice anyway, was, "We have to speed up the offense."
Kaprizov helped make that doable, and I'm with Haysie on this team: "They play with a lot of speed. That's a credit to Dean."
Addendum: Asked how the Blazers were doing this season in Kamloops, Angie Mercuri nearly shouted the good news — "17-and-4."