The Chilliwack Chiefs have lost six players to the USHL in recent days, and hockey boss Brian Maloney is ticked off about it.
Chilliwack’s head coach and general manager is accusing the United States-based junior league of tampering after seeing four top-six forwards (Tommy Lyons, Ayrton Marino, Kienen Draper and Frankie Carogioiello) and two defencemen (Hudson Thornton and Luke Krys) head south.
“We can’t stop our players from going down to the States, but the respectful thing for those USHL teams to do would be to call us and ask us where we’re at,” Maloney said. “We’re willing to work with teams if we’re not playing, but we truly believe we’re going to have a season here.
“It’s easy for these (USHL) teams to call our players or their parents and tell them we’re not having a season up here, when they don’t have a clue if we are or not. One of our kids just got a text message today telling him we’re 100 per cent not having a season, and it’s foolish for him to ruin his development by not playing games.”
“That’s what we’re dealing with.”
Though the BCHL has delayed the start of the season several times due to provincial health orders, Maloney expects they will finally get rolling for real later this month.
The league was looking at Jan. 15. Maloney sees B.C.’s COVID numbers dropping and expects late January or early February.
He forsees the BCHL squeezing out four months of hockey before the summer.
“But we can’t compete with a league that has zero respect for the virus, and as much as we want to play games, we have too much respect for our community and our billet families who have kids attending school,” he said. “We’d feel pretty bad if our team was to infect anyone in our community, and as much as we want to play, we know this thing is bigger than a hockey game.
“In B.C. we’re showing we’re taking the right steps, and because we’re following the guidelines that are in place, we will be able to play games sooner rather than later.”
Maloney isn’t blaming the players for leaving, even if he disagrees with their reason.
“I don’t have any hard feelings towards them,” he said. “I understand it’s a tough situation to be in as a young hockey player and I wish them all the best.”
But their departure does leave his lineup severely depleted.
While he points to players like Ethan Bowen, Ray Fust, Sasha Teleguine, Massimo Rizzo, Kyle Penney and others as reasons the Chiefs will be okay, there’s no way to replace all the talent that’s been lost.
“We still have a darn good team,” he said. “We’ve probably been hurt the most of any team throughout Canada, but I guess that goes to show we’ve got the right players here. If teams want your players, that means your players are good, and that tells you what kind of roster we had in place here.”
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