An interesting thing about junior hockey is the family ties.
Hockey bloodlines run deep and if there’s one elite hockey player in a family, odds seem good that another will eventually emerge.
When the Chilliwack Bruins were here, local fans saw the likes of Landon Ferraro, whose dad Ray played 1,258 regular season National Hockey League games.
Chilliwack’s arch-rival Vancouver Giants skated into town with David Musil, son of ex-NHL defenceman Frantisek Musil.
With the Chiefs in town we see two off-spring of NHL stars.
David Bondra is the son of former 50-goal sniper Peter Bondra.
Jaret Babych is the son of the mustachioed one, Dave Babych, a key cog on the 1994 Vancouver Canuck Stanley Cup finalists.
And there is one more link to the bigs on the current Chiefs roster, this one involving an active player. Chilliwack forward Derek Huisman, a native of the small town of Smithers, is a cousin of Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis.
“We’re pretty close, and I hang out a lot with him in the summer time,” Huisman said.
An outdoorsy sort by nature, the 19-year-old Chief loves accompanying Hamhuis up the side of Hudson Bay Mountain, a daunting trail hike that rivals the famous Grouse Grind where workouts are concerned.
“They’re different, but I actually think Hudson Bay Mountain is more difficult because it’s pretty much straight up with no stairs or anything,” Huisman said. “Instead of going to the gym, we’ll run up the mountain and touch the glacier up there. I can barely walk or breathe when I get to the top, but touching the snow is pretty cool.”
Hamhuis played his junior hockey in Prince George before moving into the pro ranks with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2002-03.
He joined the Nashville Predators in 2003-04 and played six seasons in the Country Music capital. Twice, Huisman flew to Tennessee for a visit.
“The first trip I went with my dad (Pete) and I was probably 13 or 14 years old,” he recalled. “My all-time favourite hockey player was Paul Kariya, and he was with the Predators that year. Dan knew that and took me to meet him. I’ve actually got a signed stick in my room back home.”
The second trip, Huisman went with his brother Darcy, an ex-Kamloops Blazer and Powell River King.
Their timing was impeccable.
“It was right during the big flash flooding (in 2010), and we actually went down roads in a canoe,” Huisman said. “It was pretty fun, and then we drove Dan’s car all the way from Nashville back to Smithers. We stopped at a few places along the way — saw a St. Louis Cardinals ball game. It was a pretty exciting trip.”
When Hamhuis was granted unrestricted free agency in July of 2010, Huisman and everyone else in Smithers had their fingers crossed that he would sign in Vancouver.
He did so on the first day of free agency.
“Everybody wanted to be Nashville fans, but they weren’t really Nashville fans at heart,” Huisman said. “So everybody was so happy to be able to go back to being a Vancouver fan.”
Huisman saw Dan in action in the playoffs, taking in a forgettable first round game against Chicago (Vancouver lost 5-0).
He didn’t talk to Dan much during the epic Stanley Cup run, but they had plenty of time to talk about it afterwards.
“I didn’t want to bother him during the playoffs, because he had a lot to think about,” Huisman said. “He was in good spirits this summer. He really wants to get back there and win the Cup.”
As Hamhuis does his thing in the NHL, Huisman is refining his game in junior A.
The five-foot-10 and 175 pound centre is off to a solid start in his second BCHL season.
He leads the Chiefs in goals with five, and has seven points in seven games. Outside the dressing room on Tuesday, head coach Harvey Smyl dropped an unprompted compliment as he strolled by.
“Derek’s playing really good,” he said.
Flanked by linemates Malcolm Gould (7-2-6-8) and David Bondra (7-2-8-10), Huisman is centering Chilliwack’s top offensive line.
“The puck’s getting to me lately and I’m starting to get some points after a little bit of a slow start,” Huisman said. “Playing with Malcolm and David is a lot of fun. I love playing with both of them and I think our line has good chemistry out there.”
Huisman thinks of himself as the defensive conscience of the line, taking particular pride in his work in the faceoff circle.
“I like to take care of my own end first, but I also like to get one the score sheet,” he said. “Winning faceoffs gives me confidence in other parts of my game, and it helps the team so much because we have the puck and we don’t have to waste 15 seconds chasing it.”
Like all the Chiefs, Huisman’s goal is to net an NCAA scholarship.
“I still think I could improve my defensive game a bit, mostly with the positioning,” he said. “I think Chilliwack, with the coaches we have, it’s the right place to help me do that.”
The next home game is Oct. 28 versus Trail.