While the way the Chilliwack Chiefs 2015-16 season ended, two wins short of a BCHL championship, was disappointing it can only be looked at as a success.
For the second straight year they took home both the regular season and playoff Mainland division championships, and for the second straight year it took just nine post-season games to secure the Mainland playoff title.
The fan support was second to none.
The Chiefs are the only CJHL team to play in front of more than 100,000 home fans this season. There were two games where the attendance was just under 4,000 but as incredible as the support was in those two games, the fan support I saw from a much smaller group after game six in West Kelowna Saturday may have been more impressive.
After I finished my post-game show duties on the broadcast, I exited the building to find roughly 100 fans standing near the Chiefs bus. They were waiting for the team to come out to give them one last show of support. I went back in to the dressing room to see how long the wait might be and it was going to be long, at least a half hour.
The fans didn’t care. They were going to wait.
As the players came out, some gave a wave on their way to the bus. Some, who had family members among the group waiting came over to say a few words. Once the entire team was on the bus, they all came out and made their way over to the fans waiting where they were met with handshakes and hugs. It was a really cool moment to see. Chiefs fans are the best.
The work of putting next year’s team on the ice did not start on Sunday.
It started almost two years ago, shortly after the new coaching staff was hired. You will soon, maybe as early as today (Friday) start to hear which players will be wearing a Chiefs uniform next season. I like the group that’s coming in.
I expect to see another very competitive team on the ice again next season.
Mark June 24 on your calendars. That’s the first day of the 2016 National Hockey League entry draft. The first round selections will be made that day and Chiefs defenceman Dennis Cholowski could be one of the 30 players to hear his name called. Everything I’ve heard from NHL scouts tells me he is most likely to be selected somewhere between 20th and 40th overall. So if he doesn’t get picked on day one, he will certainly be an early pick on day two.
Thank you to everyone who read my columns here this season. I always enjoy the feedback I get via email and in person at the rink.
Talk to you in September.