The start of the 2023-24 B.C. Hockey League season is coming quickly on Sept. 22. A lot has happened since the Penticton Vees won the Fred Page Cup back in April. This is the first season since 1969 that the BCHL is a fully independent league.
The Chiefs themselves had a lot of changes this offseason including in their coaching staff. Associate Coach and Assistant General Manager Brad Rihela moved on to become the Head Coach of the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and Assistant Coach and Strength & Conditioning Coach Chris Price became Head Coach of the Chilliwack Jets of the Pacific Junior Hockey League.
This coming season also sees a slight change as the BCHL is back to 17 teams after the Wild’s owners purchased the Winnipeg ICE and moved the franchise to Wenatchee. The Chiefs will still have some stiff competition this year for the Fred Page Cup.
This was also the first time in several years the Chiefs didn’t play a home exhibition game in Hope, B.C. They’ve done it for several years to help out the Hope and District Minor Hockey Association.
Let’s have a look at some key moments of the upcoming schedule for the Chiefs.
Chilliwack opens the regular season against the new-look Langley Rivermen. The franchise has finally changed its look for the first time since becoming the Rivermen in 2011-12. That game takes place on Sept. 22 at the George Preston Recreation Centre.
The Chiefs’ home opener is the following night when they welcome the Victoria Grizzlies to the Coliseum for the first time this season. This is also the first time since 2013-14 that Chilliwack’s home opener is against a team from the former Island Division.
In October, the Chiefs make their first ferry trip of the season when they return to the scene of the crime and face the defending Coastal Conference champion Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. It’s where the Chiefs were pummelled by the Bulldogs in the Coastal Conference Final earlier this spring.
The Chiefs then go down the Island Highway to Nanaimo and face the Clippers. It was Nanaimo that Chilliwack beat to make the Coastal Conference Final in last year’s playoffs.
The BCHL Showcase this year takes place in Seattle. With each team playing each other at least once during the season, the Chiefs meet the Cranbrook Bucks in one of their two games at the Showcase, on Oct. 24. Their other game is against the Cowichan Valley Capitals to kick off the Showcase on Oct. 22.
The Chiefs have an easier travel schedule in November with a four-game home stand that covers three weeks. It starts with the Trail Smoke Eaters on Nov. 4, Salmon Arm Silverbacks in their Remembrance Day game on Nov. 10, and caps off with the Langley Rivermen on Nov. 17.
Chilliwack starts a mini three-game series with the Powell River Kings on Nov. 18 at the Chilliwack Coliseum before hopping over to the Hap Parker Arena for two games on Nov. 24 and 25.
The Chiefs head into the Christmas break without leaving the Lower Mainland as they only play road games in Coquitlam, Langley, and Surrey while the Bulldogs return to the Fraser Valley where they made history last April.
After the Christmas break, Chilliwack meets the Merritt Centennials on New Year’s Eve.
Chilliwack starts 2024 with a trip over to Vancouver Island to face the Cowichan Valley Capitals and the Victoria Grizzles on Jan. 5 and 6, respectively. The Chiefs only have two home games in January — against the Prince George Spruce Kings and Surrey Eagles. They end the month with a trip up to the Okanagan to play in Penticton and West Kelowna.
February sees the Chiefs’ travel reduced as they play six home games in addition to two road games in each of Coquitlam and Langley. The Chiefs finish the season with five straight home games over three weeks before ending the season with back-to-back road trips to the Island.
The Chiefs’ travel this year isn’t as crazy as it has been in the past with several long home stands spanning several weeks throughout the course of the season. The team is built similarly to last season and it should be in contention for the top spot in the Coastal Conference as well as contenders to represent the conference in the Fred Page Cup final.