This year’s Christmas break comes at a good time for the Chilliwack Chiefs, who play two games this weekend before heading home for the holidays. Hockey boss Brian Maloney said he’s been pushing the team relentlessly since September, getting his young squad up to speed. A few days off will do a lot of good.
Maloney said the Chiefs need to “get away and miss the game.”
“I think the boys need to hear their parents’ voices instead of our voices,” he said with a laugh. “They need it. I need it. The staff needs it. I think this break is going to be good for everyone.”
When Maloney views the first half of the season as general manager, he says the Chiefs are right around where he thought they’d be. His teams are always young but this season he says they’re extremely young. Their record of 11-14-0-1 isn’t impressive and their results have been a roller coaster ride, but they’re fifth in the Coastal conference and trending in the right direction.
“The goal was to be stronger in the second half and be hard to play against in the playoffs, and I think we’re on track to do that,” he said.
As a coach, Maloney said he had to go back to basics with this roster, focusing more on things like positioning, stick placement and angles and less on structure and systems. He said there’s been “a ton of teaching” with zero days to pull back and relax.
“We knew there’d be a lot of teaching and a lot of growing pains early in the year, but we’d slowly get better week by week and you’re starting to see that,” he said. “We’re starting to play a little more structured, and we’re starting to see the details in our game through video and live viewings.”
It seems to be a thing where young players go away for Christmas and come back looking a lot better. The break provides a natural ‘reset point,’ a chance for skaters to relax, then refocus. It’s the second half. It’s the final push. For some players it’s their junior A swan-song.
“When they come back refreshed, their attention to detail is better,” Maloney observed. “They’re diving into video more. They’re diving into the small details of the drills we’re running. You have to have the right kids for that, and I think we do, so I’m excited to see what happens when we get back.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface a little bit with what this group can do, and I feel the ceiling is high for a lot of these kids. We don’t have an easy schedule in the second half, but I think we’re going to have a good push for sure.”
The Chiefs finish their pre-Christmas slate with a pair of home games Friday (Dec. 16) against Coquitlam (13-10-3-1) and Saturday (Dec. 17) against Prince George (14-10-1-1). They don’t play again until a Dec. 30 home game against Langley (8-16-1-2).
Maloney often works through Christmas, but this year he said he’s putting his foot down.
“I’m throwing my phone in Harrison Lake and I’ve booked a remote cabin for a few nights where I can sit in silence, hopefully in front of a wood-burning fireplace,” he said. “I’d like to enjoy that for a few days with my wife before I get back to figuring out how to break pucks out of our defensive zone.”