Ron Gallo

The BCHL Road Show and the future of junior hockey in Quesnel

Last month, the BCHL announced details for its 2023 Road Show Series. On Nov. 25-26, the BCHL will host two regular season games in Quesnel, BC. Playing those two games are the Victoria Grizzlies and the Cowichan Valley Capitals. 

It’s the first time the Grizzlies and Capitals participate in the Road Show Series. Previously, Prince George Spruce Kings played games against the Langley Rivermen and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

This year’s games are also unique for another reason. It’s the first time Quesnel has hosted regular season BCHL games since 2011, which was when the Quesnel Millionaires last played.

The announcement of these games made me wonder. When was the last time each team played the Millionaires? When was the last time the Grizzlies or Capitals visited Quesnel?

This article is about the last times the Millionaires faced the Grizzlies and the Capitals. Before that, I will talk about the Mills’ final season.

The final season in Quesnel

For the Millionaires, they finished their final regular season before relocating to Chilliwack with a 13-38-3-6 record. With that record, Quesnel was seventh in the Interior Conference and qualified for the playoffs.

In their first game of the 2010-11 season, the Millionaires visited Prince George to defeat the Spruce Kings 4-3 in overtime. In their first home game that year, they topped the Coquitlam Express 3-1.

The final home game in the Gold Pan City saw the Millionaires edge the Westside Warriors 4-3 in double overtime. During the Millionaires’ last regular season game, the Vipers blanked them 3-0 in Vernon.

The Millionaires were swept by the Penticton Vees in the first round of the 2011 Fred Page Cup playoffs. After the playoffs, the franchise was sold to a group from Chilliwack.

The Mills’ relocation to Chilliwack came about because of a series of other relocations in other leagues. True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers and relocated them to Winnipeg. This relocation triggered the relocation of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose.

Victoria, BC was noted to be a possible relocation spot for the Moose. So to protect the Victoria market, the Western Hockey League approved the sale and relocation of the Chilliwack Bruins to the City of Gardens. After the Bruins left Chilliwack, a local Fraser Valley group bought the Millionaires and relocated them to that city.

First and last games against Quesnel

During the 2010-11 season, Cowichan Valley played two games against the Millionaires. Those games took place in November and December. On Nov. 20, the Capitals won 4-2 in Duncan, BC. On Dec. 4, the Millionaires won 3-2 on home ice.

As for the Grizzlies, they also played the Millionaires in November and December that season. On Nov. 16, the Grizzlies won 4-3 in overtime at home. On Dec. 3, the Grizzlies travelled to Quesnel and lost 3-1 to the Millionaires.

When the Millionaires relocated, they became the new Chilliwack Chiefs. The Grizzlies first faced that version of the Chiefs on Oct. 22, 2011. The Capitals first met the new Chilliwack squad on Jan. 7, 2012.

The future of hockey in Quesnel

Several years after the Millionaires departed, the City of Quesnel funded the construction of a new arena. Currently, the arena hosts the Quesnel Kangaroos senior men’s hockey team of the Central Interior Hockey League.

In 2017, the West Fraser Centre was home to two Kootenay International Junior Hockey League games. The Kamloops Storm took on the North Okanagan Knights and 100 Mile House Wranglers in those games.

They were part of a bid to gain a KIJHL expansion franchise. While nothing has come from that bid yet, the games were well attended, with 1,100 taking in the match-up between the Storm and 100 Mile House and 970 watched Kamloops meet North Okanagan.

For comparison, more fans attended the Storm-Knights game than last month’s Merritt Centennials¬†home opener. At the home opener, 518 fans watched the Centennials defeat the Powell River Kings.

Whatever the future of junior hockey in Quesnel, the BCHL games there this month will help the league gauge local interest. It’s also not the first time Quesnel has been on the BCHL’s radar in recent years.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wenatchee Wild considered relocating to Quesnel for a single season. At the time, cross-border travel restrictions prevented teams from travelling to Washington State to face the Wild. The franchise ended up taking a hiatus that season.

Who knows, the dormant BCHL franchise formerly known as the Wild could find its way north. Having another team in Quesnel would help teams save on travel costs en route to Prince George and the Spruce Kings would no doubt appreciate having another team close by.