Each week, local hockey guru Jacob Bestebroer provides his thoughts on the Chilliwack Chiefs and the latest from the BCHL.
This week, Bestebroer looks at the rekindling of a rivalry that was once the talk of the junior A circuit.
What was once one of the best rivalries in junior hockey will be rekindled Friday night in Vernon.
While it may have never reached the heights of rivalries like Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens versus Toronto Maple Leafs, Ginger versus Maryanne or Rosie O’Donnell vs Donald Trump, the Chilliwack Chiefs versus the Vernon Lakers/Vipers was once one of the best rivalries in junior hockey.
It goes back to 1990 when the Richmond Sockeyes moved to Chilliwack to become the Chiefs.
Chiefs spent their first four seasons in the Interior Division with Vernon who were then known as the Lakers. During those four years the two teams faced off against each other 40 times during the regular season with the Chiefs winning 16 of those 40 games.
They also met twice in the playoffs, in 1991 and 1992, with the Lakers winning both of those second round series in six games.
Keep in mind back then the games in both cities were played in small arenas where the fans were right on top of the players. If you were there, you know how special it was.
The Chiefs then moved out of the Interior conference and the teams met just two or three times during the regular season from that point on. Despite that the rivalry hit new heights when the teams met in the BCHL finals four times in a five year span beginning in 1999. The teams split those series, with the Chiefs winning in 2000 and 2002 and the Vipers being crowned champions in 1999 and 2003.
It may take a bit for this rivalry to heat up again but I have no doubt that it will.
It’s likely the fan bases of both teams will fuel the fire.
There are many fans in both cities who remember the early 90’s when the Chiefs with Joey Potskin and Marc Gagnon, and the Lakers with Scott Longstaff and Dusty McClellan would entertain us with games that ended with scores like 9-8 and 10-7.
Fans a little younger will remember the four final series and watching players like Jeremy Jackson, Jeff Tambellini and Gabe Gauthier leading the Chiefs to two final series wins over the Vipers.
During the last five seasons, while the Chiefs were absent from Chilliwack, the Vipers were the class of the BCHL. They’ve won the last three league championships and claimed national championships in 2009 and 2010.
The Vipers are also the Chiefs next home opponent on Oct. 14. Both teams have great fan support and many of these fans will remember the days when a Chilliwack versus Vernon game was a must see event.
I think it still is.