The Beaver Valley Nitehawks will mark their 30th anniversary season when they drop the puck in Grand Forks on Friday.
What started as a shot in the dark has emerged into a strong foundation for development and competitive hockey for junior age players in B.C.
The idea of bringing the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League to Fruitvale started with Shirley Levesque, then manager of the Beaver Valley Midgets, and coach Darrell Dickson.
“It basically went from running a midget tournament to running a Junior ‘B’ team,” said Levesque. “Lots of meetings with the KIJHL before they would buy into it because local teams were concerned whether there would be enough players for everybody.”
Since Beaver Valley minor hockey was one of the strongest associations in the area, the league deemed it worthy of a junior team.
“We had a lot of support; the community supported us 100 per cent . . . it was unbelievable how people came together and raised money for the team.”
The 1981-82 Nitehawk team was very successful: the team went into a wild playoff with the Trail Junior Smoke Eaters and additional bleachers had to be brought into the arena for the games. Current Nitehawk head coach Terry Jones played for the Trail Junior Smokies at the time and remembers the series.
“It was a great rivalry, we had a great initial playoff round with them and they had some good young players like Dave Rugg and Sheldon Collins who still do a lot for their local communities.”
The Nitehawks were up two games to none, but Trail came back to win the series and set the stage for years of heated rivalry.
For Levesque, those rivalries were the biggest difference in the early years and reflected the small size of the league and its character.
“Our priority was to get entertainment on the ice – I don’t know if it’s the same now,” said Levesque.