The arena at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre was rocking as the final buzzer sounded and the 100 Mile House Wranglers soundly defeated the Chase Heat 6-1 in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 20.
With the victory on home ice, the Wranglers clinched first place in the Doug Birks Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
The Wranglers needed the victory to knock their nemesis, the Kamloops Storm, off the pedestal as division champs for the past two seasons.
The boys wanted the division title. You could see it in their eyes, in the way they skated and in the way they won the battles for the puck.
The 100 Mile House Wranglers Junior B Hockey Club has only been in the KIJHL for three years and they made the playoffs every year.
This season was different – they wanted a banner to hang from the rafters.
They worked for it, played as a team, believed in each other, and because it came down to the wire between the Storm and the Wranglers, the victory was all that much sweeter.
Wranglers club president Tom Bachynski is elated about winning the divisional title.
“Words really can’t express the pride I, and all of the executive, have with this achievement.”
When the season ended last year, coach Dale Hladun said he would bring us a banner and here it is, Bachynski says.
“I’m so proud of our players, coaching staff, fans and volunteers. It takes an entire town to raise a champion, and 100 Mile House, you have raised a fine one.”
Coach and general manager Dale Hladun says he thinks winning a division banner was important for the Wranglers franchise because it’s indelible (a moment that won’t be forgotten).
“We could have had a good year and finished second, but then you have to keep telling the story about how you almost won. But with a banner hanging [in the arena] it’s something to be proud of.
“We preach alumni and guys who are coming back and they want to leave a real legacy and that’s part of it.”
He notes the team isn’t done trying to get more banners because “you always want to be hoarders and collectors of as many as we can.”
“I think it’s a testament to the whole community. The kids did it, but I believe the whole community did it. The billet homes are fantastic; the sponsors are involved; and the executive work so hard and to have the vision the executive just to create this….
“I kind of jumped on the wave because there was a lot of work before there were Wranglers, and the executive had to stay focused for a couple years before they even dropped the puck.
“So, this has been a five-year process just to get the first banner. I’m just so proud of everyone who has been involved.”
Noting the Doug Birks Division is a powerhouse in the league, Hladun says there are four teams who have been division champions.
He adds it’s an accomplishment for the Wranglers to be a division champion and to be among four of the top teams in the league.
“I know the fans appreciate what they’re watching, but they should realize they’re watching something big right now. Hopefully, this is the start of a tradition of winning more championships.
“We’re looking forward to the playoffs; the boys love playing in 100 Mile House and they feed off the noise from the crowd.”