Chilliwack has had a lot of lunch box players that didn’t give an inch on the ice, like Kaleb Betts, Adam Powell, and Henri St. Arnault. One of the best was Jeff Royston.
He played three seasons with the Chiefs and was part of the team that went to the RBC Cup tournament in 2002. I caught up with Royston to talk about his time in Chilliwack, his transition to college, and what he is up to today.
Eric Clarke: You came to the Chiefs in 2001-02. How were you recruited to Chilliwack?
Jeff Royston: Chiefs assistant coach Dean Kletzel was from a small town just down the road, and I was playing AA midget in Olds, Alberta with his brother.
EC: What was your experience in Chilliwack like?
JR: Chilliwack is an amazing hockey town with a massive hockey following. Being a part of the Chiefs made me grow at a young age to be a professional. Having a coaching staff like we had, coaching us on and off the ice, is something I have really taken in life and still use today as general manager of a Ford Lincoln dealership.
I use the same coaching techniques in my life and with my staff. Harvey (Smyl) and the whole staff were amazing. Not to mention the unreal team of young hockey players competing each and every day to make each other the best.
EC: You were part of probably the greatest Chiefs team as a rookie in 2001-02. What are some of your fondest memories of that year?
JR: There are so many. Fights in practice, scoring my first goal in the home opener, really feeling the craziness from the fans, and realizing how big of an opportunity it is to play for such a great team. After so many years, to still be connected to so many people that where a part of that season makes you know it was special.
For me, it was winning and beating an Alberta team to move to the RBC, (there are) so many great moments. (Shawn) Germain’s OT winner is one that always sticks out.
EC: In 2003-04, the same year the Chiefs closed the Coliseum, you were traded to the Olds Grizzlys in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. How did you find out about the trade?
JR: I received a call saying I was traded, it was a few deals with a few teams. Then I received a call from Olds saying I was traded there and they want me to play the very next night, so I packed up and drove the 11 hours and hit the ice.
EC: How was your transition to Alberta from the BCHL?
JR: The AJHL was for sure a different game. (There were) more systems rather than the high skill and creative game I learned with Chilliwack and the BCHL.
EC: After your 20 games with Olds, you went and played two years of NCAA Div. I hockey at Merrimack College. How was the transition from junior to college?
JR: I played three games the first year and then got hurt, which put me out for the season. Playing in the Hockey East was a lot like the BCHL, (it is a) very high pace and a very highly skilled league.
EC: Did you play with any Chiefs teammates in college?
JR: I never had the pleasure of playing with any old teammates, but had the chance to play against most of my teammates from my years with Chilliwack.
EC: After your two seasons at Merrimack, did you play any more hockey?
JR: I had a few more surgeries that summer and my hockey career was finished.
EC: After your playing days, what have you been up to?
JR: After hockey, I opened a strength and conditioning fitness center that I ran for 5 years. After hurting myself again and a few more surgeries, I decided to get into the car business where I couldn’t get hurt.
I worked at MGM Ford in Red Deer, Alberta for five years and worked my way up the chain. Now I am the General Manager of Terrace Ford Lincoln in Ontario.
EC: Next year is the 20th anniversary of the 2001-02 Chiefs, if the team has a reunion would you come back and be a part of it?
JR: I would never miss it.
Royston played three seasons with the Chiefs from 2001 to 2004, finishing with 165 points. After being traded, he played 20 games with the Olds Grizzlys and put up 23 points. After junior, he played two seasons at Merrimack College but injuries ended his hockey career.
Currently, Royston resides in Burlington, Ontario with his wife and kids.