The British Columbia Hockey League announced Thursday morning that the Chilliwack Chiefs will be the host franchise for the first-ever BCHL Showcase event, happening Sept. 7-9 at Prospera Centre.
The Showcase will bring all 16 BCHL teams to Chilliwack for two games apiece that will count in the regular season standings. Similar events are held in other Junior A leagues and have proven effective at attracting interest from professional and college scouts.
“I think it’s fabulous, and it’s something that most junior A leagues throughout North America have,” said Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl. “College and professional scouts have pushed for this and I’m all for it.”
Several members of the 2011-12 Chilliwack Chiefs have landed post-secondary scholarships, and Smyl feels the showcase will only enhance opportunities for future Chiefs.
“It’s all about the kids, and the college coaches will be able to come on one weekend, see all 16 teams a couple times each and start having dialogue with our players,” Smyl said. “For our players to have so many eyes on them is huge.”
The early-September timing is perfect for coaches and scouts who like to get going as soon as possible.
“They try to get out early and identify their guys immediately,” Smyl noted. “Their programs aren’t up and running yet. They aren’t allowed on the ice to have team practices yet. Their availability is huge that time of year.”
So the hockey logic for the showcase is clear. But what of the business side?
The Chiefs rejoined the BCHL before last season after the Quesnel Millionaires franchise was purchased and relocated to the Fraser Valley. Chilliwack led the entire country in average attendance.
“The support we saw in Chilliwack this past season was phenomenal,” said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale. “Fan interest is a major reason we’re excited about the Chiefs hosting the Showcase and we know they’ll do a first-rate job in promoting and executing a successful event.”
Chiefs president Glen Ringdal was plotting and scheming from the moment the BCHL announced their intention to run a showcase.
In announcing Chilliwack as the first showcase host, Grisdale used the word extraordinary to describe their bid.
“I’ve put a few presentations like this together in my life and I had a pretty good idea how to do it in a way that might interest them,” Ringdal said. “The most important thing is we have the people involved who are going to make a difference.”
Ringdal will co-chair the organizing committee alongside former Chilliwack mayor Clint Hames.
The City of Chilliwack fully backed the bid, and Ringdal secured the support of every local business group he could find, enlisting the aid of the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Chilliwack.
Ringdal included a detailed financial plan, and a clear plan for how the showcase will be organized.
“I even included a games schedule, which they turned down,” he chuckled. “We have a meeting schedule planned where we’re going to meet every two weeks for the next three months, then every week for the final two months to make sure we’ve got every angle covered.
The Chiefs are obvious winners, getting two home games while every other team in the league hits the road.
Ringdal had to make a couple changes to the bid to better accommodate the needs of visiting teams.
“Most of the league’s questions were about money, because if you’re not the host you’re looking at nothing but expenses,” he explained. “So for example, every team that requires a hotel stay will play their games two days in a row to ensure they don’t have to book a third night. We wanted to be as efficient as possible while maximizing profit.”
Ringdal expects the showcase will be a money maker and hopes there’s enough money to not just cover a visiting team’s expenses, but provide them with some revenue as well.
Ringdal also suggested some money may go to a Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame project that is currently in the early stages of planning.
“We are out to establish ourselves as the best junior hockey club in Canada, and that involves stepping up and taking some risks,” Ringdal said. “This showcase offers us the chance to do that in a big way, and we’re very excited about it.”
The schedule and ticket pricing/availability will be announced before the end of April. Chiefs season ticket holders will be given first opportunity to select seats at reduced prices.