The Chilliwack Chiefs were one of the favorites heading into the 2021-22 BC Hockey League season after posting a perfect preseason at 5-0. The Chiefs came out relatively ordinary and dropped their season opener to the Langley Rivermen. Their October performance kept them in the middle of the pack with a .500 record, and with points percentage being how the season standings finish, it was key to gather wins as early as possible.
The Chiefs had a 6-6 record heading into the middle of November. Then the atmospheric river hit BC, causing flooding and landslides throughout the province, and trapping both the Coquitlam Express and Victoria Grizzlies in the Interior before both teams were forced to fly back home. In addition, the entire city of Merritt was evacuated, along with the BCHL’s Centennials.
The Chiefs had a few games postponed because highways were blocked and flooding was out of control. While some of the Interior and Coastal Conference teams kept playing, the Chiefs helped out locals who were evacuated from their homes and livestock from being caught up in the flooding on the Sumas Prairie.
The Chiefs, along with Chilliwack Minor Hockey, did two food and clothing drives outside the Chilliwack Coliseum bring in several truckloads of food and clothes. Several players cleaned out stalls at the Chilliwack Heritage Park for all the horses, cows, chickens, and other livestock rescued from farms in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Others helped the Salvation Army prepare meals at the shelters made for evacuees while their houses were underwater or they were stranded due to road closures.
After the second atmospheric river swept through the Fraser Valley, the Chiefs restarted their season. Their first test was the Powell River Kings, who arrived before the closure of Highway 7 for slide clearing between Mission and Agassiz. The Chiefs trounced the Kings 11-1 on Nov. 24. Then Chilliwack kept the momentum going by beating the Express and Surrey Eagles on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, respectively.
The Chiefs arrived home safely after their game in Surrey. There was a bit of fear that they might have to postpone their retro night on Dec. 3 as the Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Abbotsford and Chilliwack again with the building of the “Tiger Dam“. The hockey gods shone brightly on them as the dam was deconstructed the day before. The Chiefs faced the Rivermen, who wore their retro Thunder jersey, for their 90s night.
Going into the game, Chilliwack had yet to beat the Rivermen this season. With three prolific former players and two former captains in Marc Gagnon, Doug Ast, and Bobby Henderson on hand for a ceremonial faceoff, the Chiefs got the monkey off their backs and beat the Rivermen 4-1.
Afterward, the Chiefs jumped on the bus and headed to Vancouver Island for the second time this season to play the Grizzlies for their retro night.
The Chiefs may have suffered from travel legs and the Grizzles topped them 4-3 in a shootout. Chilliwack then headed up the Island Highway to Duncan to face the Capitals in a Sunday afternoon tilt. The Chiefs edged the Caps 4-3 in a shootout and finished the weekend with five out of six points and 11 of 12 points since the natural disasters struck.
Chilliwack continued its hot hand heading into the last two weekends before the Christmas break. The Chiefs slowed down just a touch with their first regulation loss in a month, a 4-1 defeat by Cowichan, but returned to their winning ways with a bounce-back 4-1 win over the conference-leading Rivermen.
Chilliwack was one of the hottest teams heading into the Christmas break. The Chiefs continued their winning ways with a feisty 4-3 win over the Coquitlam Express on Dec. 17. They faced the Bulldogs on Dec. 18 in their last game before Christmas and took the high-flying Bulldogs to the limit, ultimately falling 4-2.
The Chiefs have climbed back into contention for first place in the Coastal Conference, continuing to gain points consistently since the floods. With injured players becoming healthy, and points-percentage being the deciding factor in another unique BCHL season, first place in the conference is within reach for Chilliwack as the stretch drive begins in earnest.