It has been a long, long time since Chilliwack could lay claim to an elite hockey team.
But it looks like the wait might be over.
With two weekend wins, the junior A Chilliwack Chiefs sit atop the BCHL overall standings, two points up on last year’s Canadian champions, the Penticton Vees. They’ve won six straight games and are getting national notice for their on-ice success.
With the National Hockey League lockout stretching into its third month with no end in sight, the Chiefs are also enjoying good times off the ice.
Fans who might normally stay home to watch the Vancouver Canucks are heading to Prospera Centre, where the Chiefs average 2,057 fans per game. That’s highest in the BCHL and among the highest in Canada.
Contrast that with Langley, where the Rivermen draw 1,147 fans per game despite playing in the brand new Langley Events Centre.
The Surrey Eagles (945) and Coquitlam Express (764) aren’t even cracking the 1,000 fan barrier.
Chilliwack’s average might go up even further after this weekend.
Cash Mob Chilliwack is making it their mission to sell out Saturday night’s home game against Merritt and set a new single-game attendance record. Prospera Centre hasn’t had a full building (5,115) for hockey since year one of the Western Hockey League Chilliwack Bruins.
For Saturday night, local businesses are being offered a row of 15 tickets for $150, with a chance to win a fully-catered experience in a corporate box. Individual tickets are being discounted as well for those who visit kbrticketing.com and enter the CASHMOB code.
Fans are likely to see a good game as the Chiefs take on the Centennials.
Chilliwack is getting it done at both ends of the ice this season. The team’s stingy defence yields a league-low 2.48 goals per game while scoring 3.43 per game. The Chiefs have three players (Luke Esposito, Josh Hansen and Austin Plevy) within the top 10 in BCHL scoring.
Hansen, a 20-year-old Chilliwack kid in his final season, leads the entire league in goals with 18.
The Canadian Junior Hockey League released their national rankings Monday, a list of the top 20 squads from Canada’s 10 junior A leagues.
Chilliwack is up to ninth spot. They are the top-ranked BCHL team, ahead of the Victoria Grizzlies (11th) and Penticton Vees (15th).
It has been a long, long time coming, but it seems this hockey team was well worth the wait.