In July, I wrote an article about the Spruce Kings rivalry with the Quesnel Millionaires. After the Millionaires relocated to Chilliwack in 2011, that edition of the rivalry ended. While I don’t think any team can replace Quesnel as Prince George’s main rival the Chiefs have come very close to doing so.
In the last decade, the two were divisional opponents who played each other a lot in the regular season. However, it was during four different playoff series that their rivalry was forged. It’s a rivalry that resulted in some very ugly games.
Of those four match ups, the Spruce Kings won two of them. These wins occurred during Prince George’s 2018 run to the Fred Page Cup final and 2019 run to the RBC Cup national junior A championship. These are the series to feature the most memorable games between the two teams. The kind of games with hundreds of penalty minutes, symbolic of the bad blood.
To start with, I wanted to look at all the playoff matchups since the Chiefs returned to Chilliwack in 2011. Noteworthy games are highlighted as well as the importance of each series.
A rivalry is born
We start with the Spruce Kings and Chiefs meeting during the 2013 playoffs.
It was the teams’ first season together in the Mainland Division. The Coastal Conference playoffs featured best-of-five division semifinals followed by best-of-five division finals (or Coastal Conference semifinals if you will). Chilliwack and Prince George met in the first round and the series was close, but the Chiefs won three games to two.
In that series, the Chiefs most dominant performance came in game two. They defeated the Spruce Kings 10-1 in front of 2,038 fans at the Chilliwack Coliseum (which was called Prospera Centre at the time).
The two teams next matched up in the 2015 postseason. The playoff format changed and the Spruce Kings played the Langley Rivermen in the first round Mainland Division semifinals. Chilliwack took five games to knock off the Coquitlam Express.
After defeating the Rivermen in six games, the Spruce Kings met the Chiefs in the second round. The Spruce Kings were dealing with several injuries and lost the series in four straight games.
The 2018 playoffs
Before the 2017-18 BCHL regular season, Wenatchee was transferred from the Mainland Division to the Interior Division. It’s worth mentioning because the Wild faced the Spruce Kings in the Fred Page Cup championship final series before going on to the RBC Cup tournament, which was hosted by Chilliwack.
As for the Spruce Kings, they were the best team in the Mainland Division that year with a record of 33-17-4-4. The Chiefs were fourth in the Mainland Division with a record of 26-26-3-3, but as the RBC Cup hosts, no matter what happened, the Chiefs were guaranteed to get in.
The Spruce Kings and Chiefs first round series went seven games and the teams combined for a total of 148 penalty minutes. Two of Prince George’s wins needed extra time, so the series easily could have gone in the Chiefs’ favour.
Ethan de Jong seals it for the Spruce Kings! 3-1 to win Game 7! pic.twitter.com/ya3mUDQuVU
— Prince George Spruce Kings (@SpruceKings) March 12, 2018
After it was over, the Spruce Kings went on a championship run to the finals. They defeated the Surrey Eagles in seven games and the Powell River Kings in five games. Ultimately, PG fell to the Wild in five games.
Ask any fan who sees their team come up short in the championship final and they will tell you it’s devastating to watch. Seeing the Spruce Kings fall to Wenatchee was no different.
The 2019 playoffs
After coming up short in the championship final in 2018, the Spruce Kings were ready to try again. After beating the Coquitlam Express in five games in the first round, Prince George met the Chiefs in the second round. In a four game sweep, the Spruce Kings knocked off the reigning national junior A champions.
Those four games were ugly. Games one and two, which saw the Spruce Kings outscore the Chiefs 10-2, featured 36 combined minutes in the sin bin. In game three, the Spruce Kings won 8-0 and the contest included 32 penalty minutes in total, twice as many as game one.
According to the game sheet, the Spruce Kings had eight penalty minutes. These included high sticking, roughing, and a four minute double minor for roughing as the only penalties Prince George earned that game.
Frustration clearly got to the Chiefs, who had three separate 10 minute misconducts. Chilliwack also had separate four minute calls for roughing and high sticking. Then there were three minors for roughing, one roughing after the whistle penalty, a boarding call, three separate slashing infractions, and one tripping call.
— Lisa Stevens 🎙 (@LisaStevens983) March 15, 2015
Game four saw 32 penalty minutes split evenly between the two teams. After knocking out the Chiefs, the Spruce Kings beat the Grizzlies in four games in the Coastal Conference final to advance to the Fred Page Cup final. Prince George swept the Vipers in four games to claim its first BCHL championship.
Starting with the 2020-21 BCHL season, the Spruce Kings and Chiefs will once again play in separate divisions. Prince George joins the Interior Conference and Chilliwack stays in the Coastal Conference. Reborn rivalries await the Spruce Kings as the closest teams geographically are now in Merritt and Salmon Arm.
A move back to the Interior also means the Spruce Kings will play the Wenatchee Wild more often. Ask any Vancouver Canucks fan how they feel about the Boston Bruins and you’ll understand how Spruce Kings fans feel about Wenatchee.
It’s a brand new future for the Spruce Kings and Chiefs. When they played in separate divisions before, the Spruce Kings only played the Chiefs one or two times per season and the two never met in the playoffs. If this is the end of Prince George and Chilliwack’s close rivalry, it certainly goes down as a memorable one.