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The unique Chilliwack-Michigan connection


Throughout the Chilliwack Chiefs 30-year history, hundreds of players have played for NCAA teams, and a huge number have gone to schools based in the state of Michigan. They have also had players come from Michigan to join the Chiefs as well.

It seems the Chiefs have more connections to Michigan over any other state. From players going to school and Michigan recruits coming to Chilliwack to Chiefs alumni playing in the Detroit Red Wings organization and other pro teams in Michigan.

Even some of the Chiefs front office staff are fans of the Red Wings. Vice president Barry Douglas is a huge Wings fan and even saw them play at Joe Louis Arena before they moved to their new building.

Players From Michigan

Chilliwack has recruited some players from Michigan to come to play for the Chiefs.

  • Necco Belanger 2005-06/2007-08, Marquette, MI
  • Trevor Adams 2019-20, Muskegon, MI
  • Zach Diamantoni 2013-14, Kalamazoo, MI
  • Ben Israel 2012-13, Bloomfield Hills, MI
  • Joey Larson 2019-present, Brighton, MI
  • Stephan Balint 2004-06, Grosse Ile, MI
  • Justin Hernandez 2006-07, Farmington Hills, MI

Players to Michigan-based NCAA Schools

Over the years several Chiefs players have gone to play for NCAA Divison I hockey in Michigan

  • Bill Macgillivray 1990-91, Northern Michigan 1991-95
  • Brad Hodgins 1993-96, Michigan State 1996-2000
  • Shawn Horcoff 1995-96, Michigan State 1996-2000
  • Bob Gassoff 1996-97, University of Michigan 1997-2001
  • Brian Maloney 1997-99, Michigan State 1999-2003
  • Kevin Estrada 1997-2001, Michigan State 2001-05
  • Jeremy Jackson 1999-00, Michigan State 2000-01
  • Jeff Tambellini 2000-02, University of Michigan 2002-05
  • Zach Tarkir 2002-03, Northern Michigan 2003-07
  • Blake Cosgrove 2002-04, Northern Michigan 2004-09
  • Derek Janzen 2002-05/2006-07, Northern Michigan 2005-06/2007-09
  • Matt Butcher 2003-06, Northern Michigan 2006-10
  • Trevor Elias 2006-09, Western Michigan 2009-13
  • Milos Gordic 2006-09, Michigan Tech 2009-13
  • Derek Grant 2007-09, Michigan State 2009-11
  • Mason Blacklock 2010-11, Michigan Tech 2015-18
  • Malcolm Gould 2011-12, Michigan Tech 2012-16
  • David Bondra 2011-12, Michigan State 2012-16
  • Zach Diamantoni 2013-14, Northern Michigan 2014-18
  • Jake Hand 2013-15, Lake Superior State 2015-18
  • Darian Craighead 2015-16, Northern Michigan 2016-20
  • Jake Smith 2015-17, Michigan State 2017-Present
  • Joey Larson 2019-21, committed to Northern Michigan 2021-22
  • Brett Rylance 2019-21, committed to Northern Michigan 2021-22
  • Brett Willits 2019-20, committed to Northern Michigan 2020-21

Players to Michigan pro teams

Chilliwack has had many players play for pro teams in Michigan as well as the Detroit Red Wings organization.

  • Dennis Cholowski 2014-16, drafted by Detroit in 2016, plays 2019-present
  • Cooper Moore 2019-20, drafted by Detroit in 2019, committed to North Dakota 2020-21
  • Luke Esposito 2012-13, played for Grand Rapid Griffins (AHL) 2017-18
  • Zach Diamantoni 2013-14, plays for Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL) 2018-present
  • Matt Bickley 2001-02, played for the Kalamazoo Wings (IHL) 2007-08
  • Ryan Cyr 1999-2001, played for the Muskegon Fury (UHL) 2006-07
  • Brandon Fleenor 1996-97/1997-99, played for the Motor City Mechanics (UHL) 2004-05
  • Marco Emond 1997-98, played for the Flint Generals (UHL) 2004-05
  • Matt Holmes 1995-96, played for Muskegon Fury (UHL) 2001-02
  • John Craighead 1991-92, played for Detroit Vipers (IHL) 1994-96

Chilliwack has been a factory for players going to the state of Michigan, whether it’s college, minor pro, or the National Hockey League. It’s entirely likely more former Chiefs players will play in Michigan in the future.

Maybe one day a school like Michigan Tech or the University of Michigan can repay the favor and have an exhibition game in Chilliwack against a U SPORTS school like the University of British Columbia or Trinity Western University.

It could be a complete coincidence but there’s no doubt history shows a pipeline exists between “The Green Heart of the Province” and “The Motor City”.