Screwy scheduling challenges Chiefs

Each week during hockey season, local guru Jacob Bestebroer offers thoughts on the Chilliwack Chiefs and the BCHL.

I’m writing this about 10 hours prior to last night’s fifth and deciding game between the Chilliwack Chiefs and Prince George Spruce Kings.

My first thought when I woke up Wednesday morning was “I wonder if the teams are in Chilliwack yet?”

Due to some brilliant, and by brilliant I mean horrible, scheduling, both teams were forced to hop on a bus Tuesday night after game four and make the roughly eight hour ride to Chilliwack to play game five later that night.

Both teams had to do it, so there’s no disadvantage for either team. But why put the players through this?

All other BCHL Coastal conference first round playoff series were played by two teams much closer to each other geographically, but did we really need to force any teams to play five games in six days?

Then start round two Friday?

The answer is no.

The playoffs should have started a week earlier. To make this happen teams would have had to find a way to move two, maybe three games, from the final weekend of the regular season to some other time in the previous six months. That would not be difficult to do.

Over the years I’ve seen the Chiefs play many playoff series that have gone the maximum number of games.

I’m working on a series for the Chiefs website that looks back at some of the best playoff series in Chiefs history. There were some great ones that were decided in less than the maximum number of games, but when looking at those that went the distance, there are two that stand out for me.

It helped that the Chiefs trailed in both series and were underdogs in both as well.

The first was the semi-final series versus the Kelowna Spartans in 1995. The Chiefs were down 3-2 before winning game six in triple overtime at the Chilliwack Coliseum. Chiefs starting goaltender Mike Minard was hurt in that game, rendered unable to play in game seven in Kelowna.

The Chiefs fell behind early in that do-or-die, but battled back and held a two goal lead late.

They took a penalty late in the third period. During that penalty kill Jason Krog froze the puck in the Spartans corner by pretending to fall on it.

The Spartans backed away from Krog who after a few seconds was called for delay of game. Tough call to make but the ref really had no choice. While on the two man advantage Kelowna pulled their goalie to make it six-on-three  advantage.

The tension was unbelievable but the Chiefs held on to win.

The second was the 1998 semi final against the Surrey Eagles.

This was the height of the Chiefs Eagles rivalry. Surrey had played in the previous two national championship games and had won it all the previous season.

They were also one of the most arrogant organizations I’ve ever seen. After scoring goals, the five skaters on the ice would form a circle and strum their sticks like guitars.

It was juvenile, and for Chiefs fans it was infuriating.

The Chiefs trailed 3-1 in the series but found a way behind some great goaltending from Wade Dubielewicz to win games five and six and force game seven in Surrey.

Early in that game Dubielewicz let in a really weak goal and things did not look good. It should be noted that half the crowd at that game was from Chilliwack. I think that helped the Chiefs keep their composure as they managed to get the game to overtime. In overtime defenseman Jeff Yopyk won it for the Chiefs on a breakaway goal.