Abbotsford’s Graham Sward was a member of the Chilliwack Junior Chiefs program from 2013-15 and is now a member of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs. (Spokane Chiefs photo)

Abbotsford’s Graham Sward was a member of the Chilliwack Junior Chiefs program from 2013-15 and is now a member of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs. (Spokane Chiefs photo)

Chilliwack Chiefs take over Junior Chiefs spring hockey program

The BCHL club will add a coaching mentorship component and added emphasis on skill development

A program that shares their look and their name will now officially be run by the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs.

Clarke Wismer founded the Junior Chiefs spring hockey program in 2013 and partnered with the junior A club in 2018.

While he’s staying involved as a coach, he’s handing the program to Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney and his assistants, Brad Rihela and Andrew Shaw.

“Wis(mer) did a great job starting the Junior Chiefs and building the program up, and he’s given a lot of local kids the opportunity to get on the ice and go through a good program,” Maloney said. “He is giving us a very strong foundation to build on.”

For players, the look and feel of the program won’t change dramatically.

It will still run from early April to early June, pandemic permitting, with the Chilliwack Coliseum serving as the home rink for all programs.

READ MORE: BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs and Junior Chiefs spring hockey reach long overdue pact

READ MORE: Las Vegas Golden Knights coach leads Chilliwack hockey camp

Players will get 14-16 team practices, a minimum of two tournaments plus five skill-development sessions run by Maloney, Rihela or Shaw.

Players from the BCHL team will be involved in mentorship roles.

Changes will be made on the coaching side though, as Maloney instills a uniform approach among the 10 or so teams, making sure “everyone is on the same page.”

That means less emphasis on winning hockey games and more emphasis on skating, shooting and passing fundamentals.

Maloney wants coaches to be focused on skill development first, and have the tools and support to teach those skills.

“You can be the most knowledgeable hockey person in the world, but if you can’t deliver your message to your players, you’ll be spinning your wheels,” he said. “In order to create a good program for players from four to 20 years old in Chilliwack, you have to have everyone sharing the same philosphies as far as what development really is, and going forward we’ll have that. We’ll have constant communication with our spring coaches and they will be on the same page as us, because that’s what will create good hockey players.”

Maloney said he would love to have 25 homegrown players on his BCHL roster, and this is a step towards that goal.

“We’re getting involved because we haven’t been involved in developing local players as much,” he noted. “Our staff has made a conscious effort since day one to improve a lot of areas when it comes to engaging with our community, and this is another one of those efforts.”

“We’ve revamped all of our summer camps, trying to take things to the next level and offer the best development we can within our community,” Rihela added. “That includes using all of the resources we have and doing everything we can to give back and give our local kids the best opportunities to develop their game.”

For any potential player or coach wanting more info, email brad@chilliwackchiefs.net.


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eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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