It’s all about the hometown heroes

In Joe Pelletier's last column of the year he tells that it's not completely nuts to think a player from the northwest could make the NHL

The Terrace River Kings CIHL season may be over, but what a season it was. The young team battled hard and improved as the season went along. The Kings provided great entertainment in a hockey season best known for the National Hockey League lockout. Local fans could cheer on the likes of Derek Jurista, Craig Vienneau and Mark Dhami. Hometown heroes, literally. Who needs the NHL?

The 2012-13 hockey season has been a tough one for hockey fans thanks to NHL labour dispute. I took up the River Kings beat as part of a campaign to get fans in the local rink. Be it the River Kings or some of the peewee or midget tourneys in town, the hockey has been fantastic. For the most part the feedback has been amazing. I have talked to fans who had not been to the rink in years, who told me how much they enjoyed it again. And it’s been great meeting the oldtimers who shared their stories of local hockey lore going back before I was even born.

For me personally this has been one of my favorite hockey seasons in years. Getting down to the rink more often played a big role in that. There are some fantastic youth players here. And Terrace River Kings fans are already looking forward to their team and new found heroes returning next season and maybe, just maybe, an appearance at the Coy Cup in Kitimat in March.

That is assuming none of these guys move up to the National Hockey League.

Okay, so that is highly unlikely. Can you imagine your favorite local senior hockey star playing in the NHL? Don’t think it can happen? It already has. And it happened right here in Northwestern British Columbia.

Back track about 40 years. The Kitimat Eagles are a senior league team playing the likes of the Prince George Mohawks in the now long defunct British Columbia Senior Hockey League. That team is from so long ago that they played in Kitimat’s original arena. It may seem old now, but it was only a few years old then. Beautiful Tamitik Arena was not completed until 1973.

There is a new star player in town. A fellow named Bill Riley has moved from Nova Scotia to work as a welder at the Alcan aluminium smelter. He was a junior hockey star in Amherst, but he had no interest from the NHL.

In 1971 Riley quickly suited up for the Eagles. Details are so sparse about this mysterious BCSHL, but Riley’s dominance was never in doubt. He led the league in scoring all three years he lived in Kitimat. In 1972-73 he scored 56 goals and 88 points in 40 games. In 1973-74 he scored a ridiculous 76 goals and 118 points, also in 40 games.

Riley caught the eye of Tom McVie. At that point McVie was already a minor league coaching legend and soon to be National Hockey League coach. In 1974 he was coaching a minor league team called the Dayton Gems, a farm team of the Washington Capitals. He convinces Riley to leave a nice future at Alcan in beautiful northwestern B.C. to pursue a professional hockey career. The Caps bring him to training camp.

Riley was destined to play in Dayton that season, but he would soon get called up to the National Hockey League. He would go on to play 139 NHL games over five seasons with Washington and Winnipeg. He scored 31 goals and 61 points.

That’s the story of how a welder from Kitimat went on to become the third black player in NHL history. It’s also a great story of never letting your dreams die.

I end my River Kings coverage with the same message that I started with – keep heading out to the local rink. Support the local players and teams, be it the peewees in a tourney or the seniors in the latest clash against Kitimat. Treat yourself to some Timbits hockey for lots of smiles.

Everyday hockey dreams are being played out in small town rinks. That is where hockey’s heart beat is found, not the big leagues.

Joe Pelletier is a hockey writer living in Terrace. You can read his work at and on Twitter @HockeyLegends.


Just Posted

Terrace husband and wife honoured for saving each other’s lives

BC Ambulance presented each a Vital Link Award for separate incidents of CPR

Council supports lobby for fair share of cannabis tax revenue

The City of Terrace is throwing its support behind a West Kelowna… Continue reading

Airport registers modest passenger increase

Manager anticipates further growth in 2018 as expansion project nears completion

Nearly $500,000 available for internships with northern B.C. First Nations governments

Funds announced through partnership with Northern Development and Government of Canada

$15 million spent on cancelled transmission line

BC Hydro had already spent approximately $15 million on planning a new… Continue reading

Airport registers modest passenger increase

Manager anticipates further growth in 2018 as expansion project nears completion

Sacred Ground ancient burial story goes to Philadelphia

VIDEO: Smithers cultural resource company filmed their work of BC Hydro discovery near Hagwilget.

Suspected Toronto serial killer targeting gay community arrested

A 66-year-old man is charged with first-degree murder in disappearance of two Toronto men

Carpet bowlers have been excluded from BC 55+ Games and Canada 55+ Games

Gold medal carpet bowling winners not able to defend their titles in 2018

UPDATE: Police release new footage, launch website in hunt for 13-year-old’s killer

IHIT say no one has been arrested or charged in connection with Marrisa Shen’s death

Rural B.C. students score visit with Canadiens netminder Carey Price

Two students from the Chilcotin can hardly wait to meet hometown hero Carey Price in Montreal.

VIDEO: Elk parade on Vancouver Island is awesome sight

They’re out in force for a morning stroll. Check out some of Youbou’s famous elk.

North Delta’s Colton Hasebe named BC Children’s Hospital Foundation’s 2018 Champion Child

Colton takes the reins from 2107 Champion Child and Tsawwassen resident Taylin McGill

LIVE: B.C. announces anti-racism funding

Ravi Kahlon said money will go to B.C. Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH) program

Most Read