The boys with the blue Mohawk haircuts – a brazen, proud display of team solidarity – weren’t supposed to make it this far.
Nobody expected the Cloverdale Colts minor hockey team to even qualify for tier 1 – the top flight midget level – much less make it all the way to the provincials.
“We’ve had a pretty interesting year,” team manager Ric Thomsen said from Nanaimo earlier this week, where the team was competing at the 2011 B.C. Midget Tier 1 championships.
The team overcame a number of obstacles this year, defying expectations and gathering momentum.
The team started the season in tier 2. But the plucky players (aged 15 to 18) had a really strong start and the team was unexpectedly bumped up to tier 1.
“We were really kind of the underdogs in the league,” Thomsen said. “We ended up having a fantastic season.”
Then, just before the playoffs in February, head coach Mike Bose suffered a heart attack. Their faithful leader, Coach Bose, underwent a quadruple bypass the day after the team played their first playoff game.
In honour of their coach, they sewed heart-shaped patches with the words Coach B onto their jerseys.
“He doesn’t have a son on the team,” Thomsen said. “He coaches because he loves it. The players love him and he is good at it.”
They beat Abbotsford that night 8-0.
The Colts departed for a big tournament in Phoenix without him.
Wearing their hearts on their sleeves and vowing to win the tournament banner for their faithful coach, the Colts seized the President’s Day tournament trophy, an upset for the under 17 AAA division teams from the U.S.
And then the team advanced to the provincials, something no Cloverdale midget A1 team has ever done before, Thomsen said.
Bose, a long-time minor hockey coach with 21 seasons under his belt in Cloverdale, was trying to watch some of the games at the provincials.
“Coach B’s had a full recovery and he’s here with us all this week,” Thomsen said. “He’s obviously taking it very easy.”
Hopefully his doctors didn’t tell him to avoid excitement because there’s been thrills galore at the Nanaimo Ice Centre, where the Colts have been charging up a stable-full of victories this week, surprising even their proudest supporters and sending a wave of Hockey fever through Cloverdale.
And in a dramatic cross-town showdown nobody could have predicted, it was Cloverdale versus arch enemies Surrey Thunder for the B.C. championship final.
“Surrey has beaten us five times this year, and they beat us in this tournament six-three,” Thomsen said.
“If we’re going to beat them one time this year, tonight’s the night to do it.”
Victory within their grasp, the team was feeling giddy with excitement heading into Wednesday’s final against the Thunder, he said.
Whether the Colts ended up first or second, it didn’t seem to matter.
“There’s maybe five hundred, six hundred teams in the province. This is the top two teams in the province,” he said.