Peewee Jamboree History
CHILLIWACK’s ANNUAL PEEWEE HOCKEY JAMBOREE…AND A TEAM OF DESTINY
Chilliwack has always had a strong interest in supporting junior hockey. The official opening of the new Chilliwack Coliseum on December 27, 1958 set the stage for the start one year later of what quickly became a popular and lasting staple of the local Christmas holiday season and that is the annual Chilliwack Peewee Hockey Jamboree.
For four days and nights, usually starting on December 27th and concluding December 30th, as many as 40 teams in three different skill/ability levels (boys aged 10 to 12 allocated into “A”, “B”, and “C” divisions) would compete for the coveted championship of their division in Chilliwack’s annual Jamboree. The “A” Championship of the Jamboree was considered the most prestigious. Teams would travel from all around BC, Alberta, and Washington State to compete in Chilliwack’s high-profile Peewee hockey tournament.
For the first few years of the Jamboree fan turnout and team participation grew modestly. There were only 12 teams in the Jamboree’s first year of 1959, increasing to 19 teams in 1961, 22 teams in 1962, and 29 teams in 1963. Up until 1961 the Peewee Jamboree was only two days long but in 1962 the tournament was expanded to three days.
However, by the mid-1960s the Chilliwack Coliseum would be packed with enthusiastic family members and hockey fans alike for the entire Jamboree. Starting in 1964 the Jamboree expanded to four days.
Over the years it has taken much logistical planning, support, and cooperation to transport, feed, sleep, and schedule up to 600 young hockey players over four days. Out-of-town players would be billeted at the old Agricultural Hall on the Fairgrounds, in the Drill Hall/Armory on Princess Avenue, and at fans’ homes. Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack would regularly lend beds and bedding to support the Jamboree. Fortunately Chilliwack’s Peewee Jamboree has always had large contingents of dedicated and capable volunteers to see the annual event though to a successful conclusion.
The opening of Chilliwack’s new hockey rink in 1958 also coincided with the emergence of a generation of particularly talented ‘home-grown’ hockey players who would realize the ultimate prize of their young lives seven years later. Around 1953 and 1954 there were a number of future hockey players born in Chilliwack who would go on to form the nucleus of Chilliwack’s “A” Division’s entry in the 1965 Peewee Jamboree. To that point, Chilliwack had never won the coveted “A” Championship but its 1965 team appeared loaded and poised to ‘run the table’ through the four-day event.
In Chilliwack’s first game of the 1965 Jamboree, they defeated Capilano Winter Club by a score of 8-2, followed by a narrow victory over North Shore by a score of 4-3; this was the strong North Shore team’s first loss in 18 games. On December 28, 1965, in the game leading up to the Championship game, the Chilliwack “A” squad pounded Coquitlam by the score of 10-2. Two evenings later, at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 30, 1965 (49 years ago tonight) Chilliwack’s team faced off in the final against the team from Esquimalt. Chilliwack won a very tight “A” Championship game 2-1 with Dale Martin scoring in the first period and Captain Greg Robinson scoring the winner with seven minutes left in the third period. Greg Robinson was also voted the Outstanding Player of the Jamboree.
During the 4 days of the 1965 Peewee Jamboree the Coliseum was packed to the rafters and very loud on that final evening when Chilliwack’s “A” team took its first Championship. Indicative of the calibre of this particular ‘vintage’ of Chilliwack hockey talent, several members of that 1965 “A” team went on to play hockey at the professional and college level.
The 1965 Jamboree was not without its challenges as a major snowfall occurred during most of the tournament, so bad that 49 games had to be rescheduled and schools in Chilliwack were closed for the first week of January 1966.
Only once prior to 2019 was Chilliwack’s annual Peewee Jamboree cancelled and that was in 1996 when a heavy snowfall blanketed Chilliwack during the last week of December of that year. During that blizzard, some players were stranded for a week in local hotels and approximately 1,100 out-of-town fans, players and officials spent a few nights in Evergreen Hall.
In 2004 Chilliwack’s venerable Coliseum closed its doors and the bigger and ultra-modern Prospera Centre became one of two venues for Chilliwack’s Peewee Jamboree. By this time, the Jamboree had grown in scope to the extent that a number of games were also played at the Twin Rinks Complex in the Vedder Crossing area of Chilliwack.
#1 - This is the team picture of Chilliwack’s 1965 Championship “A” Division Peewee team. From left to right, the players are:
Front row: Scott Nicoll, Dave Varnes, Ian McKay, Greg Robinson, Dennis Anderson, Lorne Cope
Middle row: Drew Reichelt, Stuart Maxwell, Don Russell, Dale Martin, Garry McGinn, Rob Hesketh, Brian Anderson, Brian Mammel
Back Row: Manager Bob Reichelt, Coach Otto Mammel
(Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)
#2 - This image shows Chilliwack’s “A” Division team captain 12-year-old Greg Robinson accepting the championship plaque on behalf of his team. This was the seventh Peewee Jamboree and the name of the previous year’s winner Capilano (the team Chilliwack trounced in the opening round of the 1965 Jamboree) can be seen on the plaque directly above the blank area where Chilliwack’s name will soon go. Greg Robinson also won the Outstanding Player award. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)
Peewee Jamboree Progress Article 2012