They’ve shared a name, a logo and a colour scheme for nearly a decade, but the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Chilliwack Junior Chiefs have never had a formal partnership until now.
The two groups finally came together this week with a formal agreement that will see the BCHL Chiefs take a role in the spring hockey program.
Chiefs head coach and general manager Brian Maloney said it’s long overdue.
“You see all these jerseys running around the arena with our logo on it and you find out there’s no affiliation, it seemed a bit ridiculous to me,” he said. “It’s definitely something that we want to be involved with.”
Clarke Wismer helped start the Junior Chiefs program in 2009 after his five year old son, Luke, was asked to play for the Vancouver Selects Spring Hockey Program.
A new dad and a diehard hockey guy, Wismer signed Luke up and they started going to practices.
There were a lot.
The team practiced all the time through April, May, June and right into September.
Luke loved hockey.
“He could barely talk but he could say all the NHL players’ names,” Wismer laughed.
But on a sunny day at the end of April, when it was time to leave for practice, the kid threw a fit.
“He said, ‘I don’t want to go to practice. I want to play with my friends,’ Wismer recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. You should be playing with your friends.’
“Kevin Schroeder had his kid in the same age group, and I said, ‘Kevin, let’s just rent ice and do our own thing.’”
The Junior Chiefs were born.
From one team, the program has grown to eight.
Teams typically practice once or twice a week and play in three or four tournaments.
“As an affordable option for Chilliwack kids to not have to spend thousands of dollars traveling to Winnipeg or Chicago for spring hockey tournaments, the Junior Chiefs was created,” Wismer said.
Ice time has been an issue for the Junior Chiefs, and that’s the big benefit of the new partnership.
They’ve been traveling to Hope and Abbotsford way too much, and now they’ll get priority ice time at Prospera Centre.
“We wanted to make it more accommodating, where parents aren’t driving all over the Lower Mainland to get their kids to a practice,” said Maloney, who has a child in the Junior Chiefs program.
Maloney and assistant coaches Cam Keith and Brad Rihela will lend their expertise to Junior Chiefs practices.
“It’s good for our players too to surround themselves with these young kids,” Maloney noted. “They were young kids themselves not that long ago, and if they can bring these kids into our locker room and have conversations with them, it’s beneficial for everyone.
“If our coaches can help the Junior Chief coaches, that’s good too because some of those people might be coaching in this league (BCHL) some day.
“I think it’s a win/win for everyone.”
So the obvious question.
Why hasn’t this happened until now?
Wismer said there was fear among Junior Chiefs coaches that joining up with the BCHL Chiefs would raise the costs.
They thought the Chiefs would want to profit from from their involvement, but Maloney said that’s not the case.
“There are ways for us to raise revenue through camps and such,” Maloney said. “Going through a program that’s already established doesn’t make sense because we don’t want to go around town forcing parents to pay more.”
In a strange way, this arrangement is about having kids play less hockey, not more.
Both men feel there’s a certain craziness to having seven year old kids playing the game year-round, and the Junior Chiefs exist in part to pump the brakes on that.
“The spring-hockey scene seems to have gotten a little out of hand,” Wismer said. “Our hope is that we can keep kids from being sucked into that crazy ‘playing every day’ mentality, keep them in Chilliwack for a cool experience that still allows them to play soccer or lacrosse or something else they love.”
“Sometimes we’re so obsessed with hockey and trying to get a one-up on the competition down the road,” Maloney added. “But sometimes it’s beneficial to back away from it too, and we’re trying to find that balance with this program.”
See chilliwackjrchiefs.ca for more information.