(This article was originally published on Oct. 20, 2020.)
During the late 1990s early 2000s, a lot of teams in the BC Hockey League were afflicted by a condition that prevented them from performing well in a specific building. It was called the “Chilliwack flu”. The Chilliwack flu was similar to the Roxy flu in Vancouver, but it was more so the fans and building that caused this one. Visiting teams didn’t like coming to Chilliwack. Not only were the Chiefs a good team, but they were also a tough team that didn’t give you an inch.
The Chilliwack flu came and went similar to the common cold, but during the early 2000s, it was rampant.
The Chilliwack flu first arrived back in 1990-91, with the likes of Joey Potskin and Marc Gagnon up front scoring goals like no tomorrow. It led the Chiefs to win the Interior Conference in their first year in Chilliwack. The flu went away for a couple of years as the team rebuilt and got them back to where they needed to be. It became a whole new monster once the Chiefs hired former New Westminster Royals head coach Harvey Smyl.
The Smyl Influence
Once Smyl arrived in Chilliwack for the start of the 1993-94 season, he unleashed his style of the team on the City of Chilliwack. It was a powerful, hard-hitting team that could score. This led to the second wave of the Chilliwack flu, with the Chiefs winning the 1995 BCHL championship. It continued into the next season as the Chiefs dominated everyone and were the best team in the BCHL. However, the Chilliwack flu was cured by the Surrey Eagles in the playoffs that year.
From 1996-98 the flu wasn’t as prevalent as the Chiefs didn’t have the greatest of teams. Then came 1998-99 and the Chiefs bolstered their line up by adding top scorers Travis Banga, Vladislav Klochkov, and tough defensemen Shawn Landry. They went 23-7 on the season at the Chilliwack Coliseum. Chilliwack plowed through the playoffs before the Vipers bit the Chiefs and their flu with a venomous bite and beat the Chiefs in the Coliseum three times.
The Chilliwack flu was apparent from 1999-2004, with the Chiefs winning their second BCHL Championship in 2000. The fear of playing the Chiefs increased going into the 2001-02 season. No team wanted to go play at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
With two lines that could score, hard hitters like Kaleb Betts, Bobby Henderson, Dan Mahe, and Tyson Terry patrolling the boards, and not to mention the rowdiest fans who got under the visiting players’ skin all the time, it was a recipe for success.
The Chiefs’ home record during the 2001-02 regular season was 28-2 with only the Nanaimo Clippers and Salmon Arm Silverbacks squeaking out victories at the Coliseum. In the playoffs, the Chiefs didn’t lose a game at home. Even in the Doyle Cup, the Chiefs’ only losses came on the road, once back at the Coliseum didn’t lose another game.
The Chilliwack flu eventually died off after the Chiefs moved from the old Chilliwack Coliseum to the new Chilliwack Coliseum, formerly known as Prospera Centre.
The Coliseum and the fans
A large part of the Chilliwack flu was due to the fans. They were loud, passionate, chirpy, and could make the building shake. With the Chiefs boasting a sold out attendance almost every night in only a 2,300 seat arena, the fans made it count, ensuring that any visiting team goalie wouldn’t hear the end of it if he made any sort of mistake. They sat on top of the ice, making it even more intimidating as they were about six feet up from the ice but only about six inches from the boards.
The building itself was intimidating. Not only was it a smaller ice surface, but it was double-boarded with the glass above that. A lot of players who played there have said it was like getting hit into a concrete wall.
The visitor’s dressing room was right behind the bench with about six rows of fans on top of it. At the visitor’s end of the ice, the seats were right up against the glass on top of the visiting goalie, which made it even harder for him to get into a rhythm.
The Chilliwack flu eventually died off and hasn’t been seen since. Once the Coliseum was torn down and the Chiefs moved over to the new building, it hasn’t been as intimidating for visiting teams coming in as the rink is pretty much a cookie-cutter of all new rinks. It doesn’t have the fans on top of the players, the extra layer of boards to be crushed into, or even the rowdy crowds Chilliwack is known for.
Maybe one day the Chilliwack flu returns and visiting teams fear walking into the new Chilliwack Coliseum, but it takes a great team being put together by the Chiefs and of course, fans allowed in the building.