Approximately 300 Chilliwack Bruins fans gathered in front of Prospera Centre Wednesday night in a last-gasp effort to save their Western Hockey League team.
Though a sale and relocation to Victoria appears to be a done deal, former Chilliwack mayor Clint Hames was one of several speakers who seemed resolute in their belief that a last-minute solution can be found.
He exhorted the crowd to send respectfully-worded emails and letters to the WHL, CHL and anyone else who might be able to make a difference.
“Five years ago, we worked really hard to get the Bruins here and we did so because we knew this is a town that loves its hockey,” he said. “I know the league did vote to support the sale of the team, but they haven’t yet made, I don’t believe, a decision on whether to allow the team to move. So it’s really, really important that this community gets up, stands behind the team and lets the league know that we want a team in this community.”
Several people came to the rally with signs, most featuring the same ‘Stay Bruins Stay’ theme. One sign highlighted the anger many people feel towards the outgoing ownership, and particularly local managing partner Darryl Porter, reading ‘Go Porter Go.’
Local band Pardon My Striptease wrote an intro song for the Bruins earlier this year, and lead vocalist Andrew Putt grabbed the mic at the rally.
“We got to play at their home opener once, and Dylan (Weightman, drummer) got to drop the puck at another game, so the Bruins have been good to us,” he said. “It would be really sad if they did go. We wrote that song for them and for you and we want the team here in Chilliwack. So, stay Bruins stay!”
The final speakers were a pair of gorillas who hang out near the visitor’s bench during games.
They didn’t have much to say, but their frenetic chest-pounding said more than any words ever could.
Support continues to roll in on the ‘Keep the Bruins in Chilliwack’ Facebook page, including words from former and current players.
“I will miss playing in Chilliwack and the fans and city have done a great job making me who I am today,” said Ryan Howse, the team’s all-time goal scoring leader. “I would much rather drive back to Chilliwack to watch the boys and be around the fans than Victoria. Good luck. Hope everything works out for all the fans.”