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Powell River Kings: Always a bridesmaid, never the bride

Over the last 30 years, there are a few teams which have made the BC Hockey League finals on more than one occasion. The Chilliwack Chiefs made seven finals and won three, Vernon made 16 finals and won eight, and Penticton made seven finals and won four.

However, there’s one team that has advanced to the finals more than any other but has never won the Fred Page Cup.

That team is the Powell River Kings. The Kings joined the BCHL as the Paper Kings in 1988-89 after the Delta Flyers relocated to the Sunshine Coast.

In 1988-89, the Paper Kings didn’t have a bad season, finishing second in the Coastal Conference behind the New Westminster Royals. The Paper Kings finished off the Nanaimo Clippers in four games during the quarterfinals, setting up a matchup with the Royals in the semis. New West beat Powell River in a thrilling seven game series.

Heading into the 1989-90 season, expectations for the Paper Kings were higher after a stellar inaugural season. The task was a tough one with the record-setting Royals and Clippers spearheading the Coastal Conference.  The Paper Kings finished third on the Coast, behind the Clippers and Royals with a 28-27-6 record. Unfortunately for Powell River, they fell to Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley Warriors in the quarterfinal round robin.

Heading into a new decade

After the disappointment in the playoffs the previous season, the Paper Kings came out on fire, finishing second to the defending BCHL champion Royals with a 33-24-3 record. Powell River entered the playoffs as a huge favorite and delivered, defeating the Nanaimo Clippers in five games. The Paper Kings went on to face the underdog Victoria Warriors, who put up a good fight but Powell River prevailed in seven games.

The Paper Kings faced the defending national champion Vernon Lakers in the BCHL final and lost in four straight. 

In 1991-92, the Paper Kings had a meteoric season, finishing third in the Coastal Division behind Nanaimo and Bellingham. Powell River played Nanaimo in the first round of the playoffs only to be swept by their Island rivals. The Paper Kings took that loss and used it as motivation for the next season.

The Paper Kings looked to have a huge season following the disappointing first round loss to Nanaimo in 1992 and wound up with their first division title after posting a 34-23-3 record. Their first round matchup in 1992-93 was with the Bellingham Ice Hawks and although the series went the limit, the Paper Kings prevailed in seven games.

After beating Bellingham, the Paper Kings faced the same Clippers that had swept them the previous year. Powell River and Nanaimo fought hard in a very tough seven game series which saw the Paper Kings come out on top.

Powell River faced the Kelowna Spartans in the BCHL finals but had nothing left after back-to-back seven game series and was swept by the Interior champions.

The Paper Kings were poised to take the next step and came out flying in 1993-94. Powell River finished first in the Coastal Division ahead of the Cowichan Valley Capitals by 29 points. The Paper Kings faced the Clippers in the first round and beat their longtime Island rivals in five games.

Powell River was in a great spot going into the next round against the second place Capitals, but was upset by Cowichan in five games to earn the Caps their first trip to the BCHL finals. 

In 1994-95, the Paper Kings were put into the newly formed Island Division after the addition of the Royal City Outlaws and Victoria Salsa necessitated the realignment of the divisions.

Powell River kept itself atop the Island Division with its second regular season division title in as many years. The Paper Kings faced the Capitals in the first round and got revenge for the year before by beating Cowichan in five games. 

Because there were three divisions, the teams were seeded for the semifinals as they finished in the overall regular season standings. The Paper Kings faced the league leading Penticton Panthers in the semis and won in six games to return to the final for the third time in six years. 

Powell River faced the Chilliwack Chiefs in the final in a very highly contested series. The community of Powell River handed out wanted posters for the Chiefs as Chilliwack was coming in as outlaws with their rough and tumble style of play. The Chiefs were too much for the Paper Kings, who fell in five games. 

The new millenium

Following their loss to the Chiefs in the 1995 BCHL final, the Paper Kings didn’t see the success they had in the late 80s and early 90s. They only got to the semifinals once, losing to the Surrey Eagles in 1997. In 1998, Powell River didn’t make the playoffs the first time in team history and missed the postseason for three straight seasons. During that time, the Kings dropped “Paper” from their name and were now known as the Powell River Kings. 

In 2001-02, the Kings made the playoffs again after finishing fourth in the Island Division. They lost to the Clippers in five games in the first round. Then from 2002-08, Powell River failed to get out of the opening round of the playoffs. 

The Kings were poised to finally have a breakout season in 2008-09, finishing second in the Coastal Conference with a 39-16-1-4 record, only behind the Victoria Grizzlies, who hosted the RBC Cup that season. The Kings received a bye to the second round, where they faced the Surrey Eagles.

They defeated the Eagles in five games to set up a matchup with Victoria in the conference final. The Kings topped the highly favored Grizzlies in seven games to advance to the Fred Page Cup final for the first time since 1995. 

In the final, the Kings faced a familiar foe in the Vernon Vipers but Powell River lost in six games. The Kings were still not able to get that brass ring. 

In 2009-10, the Kings were determined to get over the hump. The Kings finished second in the Coastal Conference behind the upstart Alberni Valley Bulldogs and met the Cowichan Valley Capitals in the first round, pushing them aside four games to one. Powell River met the Chiefs for the first time in the playoffs since the 1995 BCHL finals in the next round and the Kings came out on top with a four-game sweep. 

With the Kings’ sweep of the Chiefs, it set up a meeting with the Bulldogs. It was a grueling seven game series with the experienced Kings coming out on top. Now in their second Fred Page Cup final in consecutive years, the Kings met the familiar Vernon Vipers. 

The Vipers were not only defending Fred Page Cup champions but also defending RBC Cup champions. The Kings were determined to get past Vernon, but the defending champs were just too much and took the series in seven games. 

The Kings were ready to take the next step heading into the 2010-11 season. They finished first in the BCHL with a 46-9-3-2 record, 12 points ahead of the two-time back-to-back national champion Vipers. Being first in the Coastal Conference earned the Kings a bye to the second round of the playoffs. In that second round, Powell River played the VIctoria Grizzlies. They took the Kings to the limit but Powell River triumphed in seven games. 

The Kings faced the Surrey Eagles in the Coastal Conference final and won in six games. This set up a third straight year that the Vipers and Kings met for the Fred Page Cup. The Kings worked their butts off to get to that point but once again, the Vipers were too much and swept the series. 

The end of an era

Following a third straight loss to the Vipers in the Fred Page Cup final the Kings had one more season to try and get over the hump finally. The 2011-12 season was a historic season in the BCHL, from the return of the Chilliwack Chiefs to the rise of the Penticton Vees who set record after record. The Kings finished atop the Coastal Conference and were poised to make a run heading into a first round tilt with Coquitlam Express. They beat the Express in six games.

The Kings met the Eagles again in the Coastal Conference final, hoping to repeat the result from the previous season. Powell River swatted aside Surrey to set up a series with the highly powerful Vees. The Kings, having been to the three previous finals, were determined to upset Penticton. However, the Vees had other ideas and swept the Kings in four straight. 

After losing in the final for four straight years, Powell River hasn’t finished lower than fourth in its conference or division. Despite the relative regular season success, the Kings made only one conference final appearance in the last 10 years. It came in 2017-18 in a five game loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings. 

This season, the Kings are in the middle of a rebuild but have sat in a playoff position for most of the 2021-22 season. After being to the BCHL final more than any other team without winning the elusive trophy, there is hope that Powell River finally gets a Fred Page Cup banner to go along with all the others it has won over the years.