Each week during the BCHL season, local hockey guru Jacob Bestebroer writes a Chilliwack Progress column talking about the local team and goings on around the junior A circuit.
The Chilliwack Chiefs have now qualified for the playoffs in 16 of their 17 seasons, and are 21 of 22 when you include their five seasons in Langley.
Over that time, we’ve learned that not everything goes as expected.
In 1995-96 the Chiefs won 44 games and were picked by everyone to win the league title. Everything was going according to plan until top scorer Shawn Horcoff went down with a leg injury early in the second round versus the Langley Thunder.
The Thunder won that series in seven games.
The Chiefs were dominant in 2001-02, setting a team record that still stands with 46 wins and cruising through the first three rounds (winning 11 of 13 games). After surprisingly losing the first two games in the finals versus Vernon, Chilliwack won four straight to win the league title.
They took the Doyle Cup in six games over Drayton Valley, advancing to the national championships in Halifax.
In Halifax, the Chiefs were the best team but were upset in the one game semi-final by Manitoba’s OCN Blizzard. Had those teams played 20 times the Chiefs would have won 19 of them.
Of course it hasn’t always gone against the Chiefs.
In the second half of the 1994-95 season the Chiefs showed signs that they would be a tough team to beat in the playoffs, but their incredible run to this city’s first junior hockey championship was Cinderella like. Their epic second round victory versus the heavily favored Kelowna Spartans was as incredible as incredible gets.
Down three games to two, the Chiefs won game six at home in triple overtime on a goal by Shawn York.
Earlier in the game Mike Minard, the Chiefs number one goalie, was knocked out of the game with an injury. Backup Corey Deutsch came in and was great. He was equally as good when the Chiefs went into Kelowna and won game seven.
The Chiefs went on to win the league title in five games over the Power River Paper Kings, who themselves had pulled off a huge upset in the semi-finals, beating the favoured Penticton Panthers.
In 1999 the Chiefs were given little chance in the semi-finals versus the Surrey Eagles, who were in their third year of an incredible run.
Two years earlier they dominated like few teams in this league ever have, only to be upset in the national final by Summerside. They made amends the next year by winning the national championship in Nanaimo.
Their 1999 team was not quite as good but the Chiefs were given less than no chance of winning that series.
Trailing three games to one the Chiefs won three straight elimination games to win the series, including game seven in Surrey on an overtime goal by Jeff Yopyk.
This year, the Chiefs face the Penticton Vees in round one.
The Vees rewrote the BCHL record book this season with 54 wins and are obvious favorites in this series.
But as we’ve seen before, things don’t always go as they are expected to.