The Calgary Flames American Hockey League affiliate team left Abbotsford in 2014 and the 7,000-seat Abbotsford Centre has been used primarily by the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds program and its U18, U16, and U15 teams since.
However, with the announcement in May that the Vancouver Canucks are relocating their AHL team to the Fraser Valley city starting in the 2021-22 season, another high level of hockey is moving into the region with a population of just under 300,000.
According to the Fraser Valley Regional District, the region includes the communities of Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, and more. Every one of those communities listed has a junior hockey team. If you also include communities like Maple Ridge and Langley, even more junior hockey is represented.
But despite the fact that the AHL club is located just 25 minutes away from the closest BC Hockey League franchise in Chilliwack, the Chiefs aren’t concerned about it.
In fact, the Chiefs are looking at the AHL coming back to the Fraser Valley as an opportunity to work with a team playing at a level just one rung below the National Hockey League.
“We look forward to potentially working with the new AHL team on creative cross-promotions that benefit both clubs,” said Chilliwack governor and vice-president of business operations Barry Douglas.
It’s a movie the Chiefs organization has seen before. When the Abbotsford Heat played in the Raspberry Capital of Canada, the junior hockey competition in Chilliwack was the Western Hockey League’s Bruins.
Then when the Bruins left town for Victoria in 2011, the BCHL rubber-stamped the purchase and relocation of the Quesnel Millionaires by Chiefs Development Group to Chilliwack.
This brings us to the situation we’re in now, with the AHL in the BCHL’s backyard. Douglas thinks fans throughout the Lower Mainland will support the Canucks farm team and die-hard Chiefs fans will continue to support their BCHL team.
“The Chiefs are fortunate to have very loyal fans, corporate partners, and volunteers,” he added. “This will provide the opportunity for us to continue to provide a high entertainment value for families and all hockey fans in our area.”
It seems like the idea of a higher level of hockey coming in is bound to raise the profile of the sport in the Fraser Valley, so for the BCHL, the more fans interested in hockey, the better.
A lot of hockey out in the Valley
The AHL club in Abbotsford is actually located almost directly halfway between the two main BCHL franchises in the Fraser Valley with the Chiefs located 25 minutes east and the Langley Rivermen a half an hour to the west.
Here’s a list of hockey teams above the U18 AAA level in the Fraser Valley and the leagues they play in:
- Abbotsford (AHL)
- Vancouver Giants (WHL)
- Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
- Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
- Abbotsford Pilots (PJHL)
- Aldergrove Kodiaks (PJHL)
- Chilliwack Jets (PJHL)
- Langley Trappers (PJHL)
- Mission City Outlaws (PJHL)
- Ridge Meadows Flames (PJHL)
If one considers any community along the Fraser River as part of the Fraser Valley geographic area, the list could be expanded to include the Delta Ice Hawks (PJHL), Richmond Sockeyes (PJHL), Surrey Knights (PJHL), Coquitlam Express (BCHL), and Surrey Eagles (BCHL).