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Spokane Chiefs

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Spokane Chiefs
Spokane Chiefs
City: Spokane, Washington
League: Western Hockey League
Conference: Western
Division: 1982
Home Arena: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena
Colors: Red, white and blue
Head Coach: Don Nachbaur
General Manager: Tim Speltz
Franchise history
1982–85: Kelowna Wings
1985–present: Spokane Chiefs

The Spokane Chiefs are a major junior ice hockey team that plays in the Western Hockey League based out of Spokane, Washington. The team plays its home games at the Spokane Arena. Their uniforms are similar to those of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. Spokane consistently ranks in the top 10 in the Canadian Hockey League in attendance. The Chiefs won the Memorial Cup in 1991 and 2008.

HistoryEdit

Chiefs line up

The Chiefs line up for a game with the Tri-City Americans.

The current franchise was granted in 1982 to Kelowna, British Columbia as the Kelowna Wings. In 1985, the team relocated to Spokane, Washington and became the Chiefs. Before the Spokane Chiefs, there was another WHL franchise in Spokane, the Spokane Flyers, which played between 1980–1982.

The Chiefs won the WHL and CHL Memorial Cup championships in 1991 and 2008. In addition, they have won two division titles and four Western Conference championships. The Chiefs and Portland Winter Hawks are the only United States based teams to win the Memorial Cup. The Chiefs are also the only team in the history of the Western Hockey League to come back from an 0–3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, which they did against the Portland Winter Hawks in 1996.

The 1991 Memorial Cup team included future NHL players: Ray Whitney, Pat Falloon, Trevor Kidd, Jon Klemm, and Scott Bailey. This team of future NHL'ers blew through the Memorial Cup Tournament, scoring a goal in the first couple of minutes of virtually every game.

The Chiefs' move to the new Spokane Arena in 1995 proved to be good luck. Along with being called the gem of the Western Hockey League, the Arena hosted many memorable events in the first year and saw the Chiefs win 50 games and advance to the WHL finals, only to lose in five games to the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Westernconferencetrophy

The Chiefs won the Western Conference Championship cup in 1991, 1996, 2000 and 2008.

Just two years later, the Chiefs hosted the 1998 Memorial Cup, setting an attendance record. In the 1999–00 season head coach Mike Babcock led the team from a last place finish the previous year to a first place, 47 win season. The Chiefs advanced to play the Kootenay Ice in the WHL finals, but lost in six games.

Between 2001 and 2005, the Chiefs struggled to find an identity. The organization went through three head coaches in five years: Perry Ganchar (resigned), Al Conroy (fired) and Bill Peters. Still Spokane fans, known for their robust support, continued to turn out. The Chiefs consistently average 6,000–7,000 fans per game, one of the top figures in the Western and Canadian Hockey Leagues. The Chiefs are also known for a goal celebration often called the 'best in junior hockey.' [1] In 1999, the fans were named the best in the WHL. On Saturday nights, often referred to as 'Hockey Night in Spokane', the Spokane Arena is generally sold out, and sellouts are expected when the Tri-City Americans come to town.

Memorial cup drop

The Chiefs lower the Memorial Cup via rope, from the roof of the Spokane Arena on Opening Night 2008. Four months earlier, the Cup broke in the Chiefs hands during the celebration in Kitchener, Ontario.

The 2007–08 season produced the most wins by a Spokane Chiefs team since the 1999–00 season, a season which saw the Chiefs go to the WHL Finals. The team, backed by a solid goaltending tandem and an offensive attack led by Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Drayson Bowman, ranked in the top ten of the CHL for most of the season, and reached the #1 spot in late February. In one of the greatest series in WHL history the Chiefs beat their arch-rival, the Tri-City Americans, 4 games to 3 in the Western Conference finals to earn a spot in the 2008 WHL Finals. Five of the 7 games went into overtime, including 3 games decided in double overtime.

In the Finals, the Chiefs outscored the Lethbridge Hurricanes 15–5 and swept the series 4–0, just as they did in the 1991 WHL playoffs, to earn a trip to the Memorial Cup in Kitchener, Ontario. The Chiefs skated to a perfect 3–0 round robin record en route to their 2nd Memorial Cup, defeating the host Kitchener Rangers 4–1 in the championship game. The Chiefs remain the only U.S. team ever to win the Memorial Cup on Canadian soil.

In the 2008 offseason, head coach Bill Peters announced he was leaving the Chiefs for the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. Assistant Coach Hardy Sauter was named the Chiefs 10th head coach a week later. He is the only former Chiefs player to become head coach.

In the 2009 offseason, former Chiefs defensemen and captain Jon Klemm was named assistant coach. Klemm lead the Chiefs to their first Memorial Cup championship in 1991, and won two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche.

On May 4, 2010 the Chiefs announced they declined to exercise the option on Hardy Sauter's contract, thereby ending his two-year stint as the team's head coach. Weeks later, speculation begin swirling when former Tri-City coach Don Nachbaur unexpectedly resigned from a coaching position in the AHL. Just hours later, Nachbaur was named the new head coach of the Chiefs, further sparking the heated rivalry between Tri-City and Spokane.

Nachbaur's first season as head coach would be one filled with low expectations. Most picked Spokane to finish at or near the bottom of the Western Conference. But Nachbaur's Chiefs finished the season with 102 points- the third highest total in team history, and only one point away from the regular season Western Conference crown. Led by sniper and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Tyler Johnson, the Chiefs led the league in goals scored and power play goals. The surprising Chiefs would also allow the second fewest goals in the league, led by Ottawa Senators prospect Jared Cowen. Spokane would advance to the Western Conference finals, only to lose to Portland four games to two. Nachbaur was named WHL Coach of the Year for 2011 - becoming the only coach in WHL history to win the honor with three different teams (Spokane, Seattle and Tri-City).

Outdoor hockey gameEdit

During the 2010 offseason, the Chiefs and the Western Hockey League announced the WHL's first-ever outdoor hockey game would be played in Spokane on January 15, 2011 between the Chiefs and the Kootenay Ice. While the game was welcomed with great excitement in Spokane, many fans questioned the location of the 7,000-seat Avista Stadium- the home of the Spokane Indians baseball club. Joe Albi Stadium, a 28,000-seat facility that usually hosts high school and college football, was thought to be a much-better choice. Chiefs owner Bobby Brett, who also owns the Indians baseball team, said the Chiefs could not reach an argeement with the city on using Joe Albi.

SpokaneChiefsOutdoorGame

The Chiefs hosted the Kootenay Ice in the WHL's first-ever outdoor hockey game at Avista Stadium in Spokane. The Chiefs won the game 11-2.

Brett also had liability concerns regarding the astroturf installed at Albi. In the end, the game was played at Avista Stadium in front of a sell-out crowd of 7,075- though ticket prices did make a sell-out uncertain until the last minute. While they enjoyed the experience, many fans complained about the view from their seats at Avista Stadium. Fans who bought front-row tickets discovered they were eye-level with the side boards, making only the upper-part of the players' bodies visible and making it impossible to see the puck.

Construction crews begin their work at Avista Stadium the week after New Year's. A platform was constructed between first and third base on the baseball field, and then the ice refrigeration unit was placed on top of the platform. It took crews about one week to have the ice rink ready to go.

Weather played a critical role in the lead up to the game and on game day itself. Initial forecasts called for arctic temperatures and more than a foot of snow falling on January 15. That changed the week of the game, when a warm pacific storm barrled through the northwest and melted nearly a foot of snow already on the ground in Spokane. To the disappointment of many fans, the temperatures on game-day reached 50-degrees and there was no snow. As if on cue, moments before the puck dropped, the sun tucked behind the clouds and didn't show for the rest of the day, providing near-perfect viewing conditions.

The Chiefs ended up winning the game 11-2 over Kootenay, as nine different players scored for Spokane. Brett and the Chiefs organization have said it is very unlikely an outdoor game would ever be played in Spokane again, although the following day general manager Tim Speltz did leave open the possibility of hosting a game at Joe Albi Stadium.

NHL alumniEdit

Club recordsEdit

Banner drop memorial cup

On Sept. 27, 2008, the Chiefs unveiled their WHL and Memorial Cup Championship banners. The Chiefs have won two Western Hockey League titles and two Memorial Cup titles. Banners for the championships hang in the Spokane Arena rafters. Division and conference championship banners are hung throughout the Arena concourse.

Most goals: 68 - Valeri Bure (1992–93)

Most career goals: 147 - Mitch Holmberg (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14)

Most assists: 118 - Ray Whitney (1990–91)

Most points: 185 - Ray Whitney (1990–91)

Most points, rookie: 78 - Pat Falloon (1988–89)

Most points, defenceman: 85 - Brenden Kichton (2012–13)

Most penalty minutes: 505 - Kerry Toporowski (1990–91)

Best goals against average, goaltender: 1.97 - Dustin Tokarski (2008–09)

Most shutouts, goaltender: 15 - Dustin Tokarski (2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09)

Most saves, goaltender: 2,007 - Troy Gamble (1987–88)

Most regular season wins, goaltender: 85 - James Reid (2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11)

Most single-season games played, goaltender: 67 - Troy Gamble (1987–88)

Most points in standings, team: 107 (2007–08)

Most wins, team: 50 (1995–96), (2007–08)

Longest game: 2:26:05 - 4 OT's (vs. Vancouver - April 10, 2009) (2nd longest game in WHL history)

Season-by-season recordEdit

Regular seasonEdit

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties OTL = Overtime losses Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season GP W L T OTL GF GA Points Finish Playoffs
1985–86 72 30 41 1 - 373 413 61 3rd West Lost West Division semi-final
1986–87 72 37 33 2 - 374 350 76 3rd West Lost West Division semi-final
1987–88 72 37 32 3 - 330 296 77 2nd West Lost West Division final
1988–89 72 25 45 2 - 326 419 56 6th West Out of playoffs
1989–90 72 30 37 5 - 334 344 65 4th West Lost West Division semi-final
1990–91 72 48 23 1 - 435 275 97 2nd West Won WHL championship and Memorial Cup
1991–92 72 37 29 6 - 267 270 80 2nd West Lost West Division semi-final
1992–93 72 28 40 4 - 311 319 60 5th West Lost West Division semi-final
1993–94 72 31 37 4 - 324 320 66 5th West Lost West Division quarter-final
1994–95 72 32 36 4 - 244 261 68 5th West Lost West Division semi-final
1995–96 72 50 18 4 - 322 221 104 1st West Lost WHL finals
1996–97 72 35 33 4 - 260 235 74 3rd West Lost West Division semi-final
1997–98 72 45 23 4 - 288 235 94 2nd West Lost West Division final & Lost Memorial Cup
1998–99 72 19 44 9 - 193 268 47 7th West Out of playoffs
1999–00 72 47 19 4 2 272 191 100 1st West Lost WHL finals
2000–01 72 35 28 7 2 242 219 79 4th West Lost West Division final
2001–02 72 33 25 11 3 223 206 80 2nd U.S. Lost Western Conference semi-final
2002–03 72 26 36 6 4 216 261 62 2nd U.S. Lost Western Conference semi-final
2003–04 72 32 29 4 7 200 215 75 4th U.S. Lost Western Conference quarter-final
2004–05 72 24 38 8 2 192 230 58 5th U.S. Out of playoffs
Season GP W L OTL SOL GF GA Points Finish Playoffs
2005–06 72 25 39 5 3 193 254 58 5th U.S. Out of playoffs
2006–07 72 36 28 4 4 232 217 80 4th U.S. Lost Western Conference quarter-final
2007–08 72 50 15 1 6 251 160 107 2nd U.S. Won WHL championship and Memorial Cup
2008–09 72 46 23 0 3 246 145 95 2nd U.S. Lost Western Conference semi-final
2009–10 72 45 22 3 2 240 179 95 3rd U.S. Lost Western Conference quarter-final
2010–11 72 48 18 4 2 310 193 102 2nd U.S. Lost Western Conference final
2011–12 72 38 25 5 4 257 225 85 3rd U.S. Lost Western Conference semi-final
2012–13 72 44 26 2 0 269 230 90 2nd U.S. Lost Western Conference semi-final
2013–14 72 40 26 3 3 244 213 86 4th U.S. lost Western Conference quarter-final
2014–15 72 34 34 3 1 219 229 72 4th U.S. lost Western Conference quarter-final
2015–16 72 33 30 5 4 223 245 75 4th U.S. Lost Western Conference quarter-final

WHL Championship historyEdit

Memorial cup finals historyEdit

  • 1991 Win, 5-1 vs Drummondville
  • 2008 Win, 4-1 vs Kitchener

WHL Championship historyEdit

Memorial cup finals historyEdit

  • 1991 Win, 5-1 vs Drummondville
  • 2008 Win, 4-1 vs Kitchener


Spokane Arena hockey attendance recordsEdit

SpokaneArenaSECorner

The Spokane Arena is the home of the Spokane Chiefs.

  • Largest crowds: 10,759 vs. Tri-City (7 times since 1995), 10,751 Spokane vs. Val d'Or (1998 Memorial Cup opener), 10,700 vs. Tri-City (8 times since 1995), 10,650 vs. Tri-City (2 times since 1995), 10,538 vs. Tri-City (5 times since 1995), 10,530 vs. Tri City (2010), 10,529 vs. Tri-City (2 times in 2010), 10,475 vs. Tri-City (2 times in 2011), 10,431 vs. Tri-City (4 times since 1995)
  • Smallest crowd: 3,025 Spokane vs. Kelowna (February 8, 2006)
  • 1995–96 Sellouts: 11 (Includes NHL Exhibition Game)
  • 1996–97 Sellouts: 9
  • 1997–98 Sellouts: 14 (Includes 8 Memorial Cup Games)
  • 1998–99 Sellouts: 5
  • 1999–00 Sellouts: 5
  • 2000–01 Sellouts: 4
  • 2001–02 Sellouts: 2
  • 2002–03 Sellouts: 1
  • 2003–04 Sellouts: 2
  • 2004–05 Sellouts: 3
  • 2005–06 Sellouts: 2
  • 2006–07 Sellouts: 2
  • 2007–08 Sellouts: 3
  • 2008–09 Sellouts: 4
  • 2009–10 Sellouts: 4
  • 2010-11 Sellouts: 3* (Includes Rockstar Outdoor Hockey Classic)
  • 2011-12 Sellouts: 1
  • 2012-13 Sellouts: 2
  • 2013-14 Sellouts: 2
  • 2014-15 Sellouts: 0


Chiefs attendance averages and WHL attendance rankEdit

Season Total attendance Average Games WHL rank
1996–97 281,743 7,826 36 2nd
1997–98 289,735 8,048 36 2nd
1998–99 259,150 7,404 36 2nd
1999–00 255,974 7,110 36 1st
2000–01 231,960 6,443 36 2nd
2001–02 229,308 6,369 36 3rd
2002–03 219,586 6,099 36 3rd
2003–04 226,550 6,293 36 3rd
2004–05 225,002 6,250 36 4th
2005–06 219,802 6,105 36 5th
2006–07 220,019 6,112 36 4th
2007–08 236,056 6,557 36 3rd
2008–09 239,620 6,656 36 3rd
2009–10 243,370 6,760 36 3rd
2010–11 231,811 6,439 36 3rd
2011–12 231,946 6,442 36 2nd
2012–13 229,232 6,368 36 3rd
2013–14 219,662 6,101 36 4th
2014–15 209, 836 5,829 36 5th



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