Recapping the 2002 Doyle Cup: Chiefs vs. Thunder


(This article was originally published on Apr. 2, 2021)

The Doyle Cup is the annual series between the champion of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the champion of the BC Hockey League. The BCHL holds a record of 24-18 over the AJHL.

In this article, I’ll look at the 2002 edition of the series between the Chilliwack Chiefs and Drayton Valley Thunder.

This series was a hotly contested battle between the two of the best teams from each league. The Chiefs were the greatest Chilliwack team of all time and Drayton Valley was coming off some unfinished business the year before, losing to Camrose Kodiaks in the AJHL finals.

The background

Drayton Valley entered the AJHL in 1998-99 as an expansion team. The Thunder didn’t fare too well, finishing sixth in the South Division.

But then things changed for the Thunder and the next three seasons saw Drayton Valley become one of the top teams in Alberta. It finished first in the South Division and North Division in back-to-back seasons and finished second in 2001-02 behind St. Albert.

Chilliwack was the best team in the BCHL in 2001-02. Before this season, the Chiefs have had two other opportunities to advance to the national junior A championship.

In 1995, the Chiefs came close but lost to the Calgary Canucks in a thrilling seven-game series that had them ahead of NHL coverage in the Calgary newspapers.

In 2000, the Chiefs had a shot against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons but lost 4-1. Chilliwack still made it to the RBC Cup as the Pacific region representative because the Oil Barons were the host team.

The lead-up to 2002

Drayton Valley finished second to St. Albert Steel in the AJHL North Division in 2001-02. The Thunder easily handled the Fort Saskatchewan Traders 3-0 in the first round.

The Thunder then had its toughest test in the second round against the Sherwood Park Crusaders but won  4-2. In the semifinals, Drayton Valley faced the Olds Grizzlys and swept them 4-0.

The Thunder finally got over the hump and into the final against the Grande Prairie Storm. Drayton Valley achieved its third sweep of the playoffs and won the AJHL final series 4-0.

Chilliwack finished with the best record in the BCHL, winning what would become the Ron Boileau Memorial trophy. They matched up against the Coquitlam Express and won 4-1 in the elimination round.

The Chiefs came against their arch-rival South Surrey Eagles in the next round and swept them 3-0. Next came the Island Division champion Nanaimo Clippers. The Chiefs won 4-1 and clinched the series on an overtime goal by Shawn Germain.

Chilliwack came up against the Vernon Vipers for the third time in four years in the Fred Page Cup final. After losing games one and two in Vernon, the Chiefs rattled off four straight wins to claim their third BCHL championship.

The Doyle Cup series

The series started in Drayton Valley because the leagues alternated where the series starts and the BCHL had hosted the start of the 2001 Doyle Cup between Victoria and Camrose.

The Chiefs came to Alberta and stole game one with a 4-3 victory. Game two saw the Thunder bounce back and shut out Chilliwack 3-0. Given how the series was structured, if the first two games were split, the third game was in Drayton Valley. Had one team swept the first two games, game three would have been in Chilliwack.

(Chilliwack Progress / Black Press Media)

Game three saw the heat turned up both on the ice and in the stands. The Thunder prevailed 8-5 but there were a ton of fights on the ice and in the penalty box.

Jade Galbraith’s father was screaming at the Chiefs play-by-play team of Barry Douglas and Rich Brew. It didn’t go over well with the Chiefs fans in attendance as well as three former Chiefs players in Wyatt Tunnicliff, Travis Churchman, and Jeff Yopyk who were also at the game.

At the Chilliwack Coliseum for game four, the old barn acted as the seventh player for the Chiefs. Chilliwack had only lost once in the Coliseum throughout the playoffs and the Chiefs evened the series up at two with a 7-5 victory.

In game five, the Chiefs carried their momentum further and double up Drayton Valley with a 4-2 win. Game six saw an exciting back and forth game that was tied at three going into overtime.

The first OT solved nothing and in the second extra frame, David Van Der Gulik notched the series clincher after picking up a rebound off of Thunder goalie Glen Fisher to win the Chiefs their first Doyle Cup.

(Chilliwack Progress/ Black Press Media)

After the Chiefs victory

The Chiefs went on to the Royal Bank Cup as one of the favorites to win the whole tournament and finished the round-robin 3-1 with their only loss to the host Halifax Oland Exports.  In the semifinals, the Chiefs fell short and lost 3-2 to the OCN Blizzard, which was the Manitoba champion.

The Chiefs haven’t been to the Doyle Cup since 2002 but did represent the BCHL at the 2017 Western Canada Cup. They fell short in the final against the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits, and then the Penticton Vees in the second play-in game.

Chilliwack hosted the Cenntenial Cup in 2018 and won its first national junior A championship over the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

For Drayton Valley, it hasn’t reached the same heights as it did when they first entered the AJHL as an expansion team. The Thunder hasn’t been near the top of the AJHL in some time, and have only won three playoff series in the last 15 seasons.