Chilliwack Chiefs architect impacted hundreds of lives

Harvey Smyl will be inducted into the Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame at Thursday night's Chilliwack Sports Dinner presented by Royal LePage.

A stoic presence behind BCHL benches for two decades

Harvey Smyl will be inducted into the Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame Thursday night.He will be an honoured guest at that night’s Chilliwack Sports Dinner, presented by Royal LePage. He’ll also be honoured at Friday night’s Chilliwack Chiefs game at Prospera Centre.Here is Smyl’s Hall of Fame story.There is no name more synonymous with Chilliwack hockey than legendary coach Harvey Smyl.For 16 seasons he patrolled the bench for the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, sending dozens of players off to the NCAA hockey ranks.For 15 seasons he served as the team’s general manager, building it into one of the premier junior A programs in Canada.“As corny as it sounds, it’s the friendships that were made and the development of kids into fine young men that stuck with me,” Smyl says, looking back on his storied career. “When I talk to individuals I coached or worked with and I hear how they cherished those years they spent as a Chief, to me that means everything.”Smyl took over as Chilliwack’s bench boss in 1993-94, leading the team to a 28-28-0-4 record and a playoff spot. That started an amazing run that saw Smyl-led teams qualify for the postseason every year for 20 straight seasons.The only certainties in life were death, taxes and Smyl in the playoffs.In just his second year Smyl led the Chiefs to a 39-18-0-3 record and their first BCHL championship.“The year prior to me coming to Chilliwack the team was absolutely horrendous,” Smyl recalls. “They lost one of their games 22-2 or something like that.”“So having that quick turnaround within two years was a nice accomplishment.”“Mr. and Mrs. Brew (Al and Sheila) were so pleased, so happy with us.”The Brews owned the Chiefs during those early years and Smyl calls Al Brew the most incredible man he ever met.“He left a huge impression in my life,” Smyl says. “Wins and losses were important to him and finances too. But he truly cared about individuals and would go to any extent to help.”“He truly cared.”Many players Smyl coached through the years would say the same about him.“I still run into former players now and then and they’ll tell me stories about things they think I didn’t know,” Smyl laughed. “Or they’ll talk about people, the billets and volunteers they met in Chilliwack.”“I can put a face to all those names.”He went on to win two more BCHL titles and lead the Chiefs to a bronze medal finish at the 1999-00 Royal Bank Cup. Smyl won three BCHL Coach of the Year awards, in 1995-96, 1997-98 and 2000-01.But the one-ice accomplishments were secondary to the relationships he forged.“I had a kid phone me up eight years after he was done playing for me and he wanted to tell me that I was the one person who made the biggest difference in his life,” Smyl says.“He said, ‘You preached lots and you were hard at times, soft at others but in my life now I try to deal with people the way you dealt with me.”“To make that much of an impact on his life, that is rewarding.”

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