Fuller Lake Flyers plaque will join the others in the North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame in the Cowichan Aquatic Centre lobby in Duncan. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Flyers hockey program inducted into Sports Wall of Fame

Junior B teams attracted huge crowds in the early days of Fuller Lake Arena

Way back in ancient times before social media, people in the community used to communicate at work, at school or on old-fashioned telephone landlines to make arrangements to meet at Fuller Lake Arena Wednesday nights for Fuller Lake Flyers Junior B hockey games.

It didn’t matter that the starting time was as late as 8:30 p.m. on a weeknight (eventually getting rolled back to 8:15 and then to 8), the games were a gathering place during the early days of the arena in the 1970s. People simply made it a priority to be there to witness Flyers’ action in the South Vancouver Island Junior B Hockey League.

It was the only game in town of that calibre and the entire Cowichan Valley for a while in those days until the Lake Cowichan, Kerry Park and eventually Duncan arenas were all built during the remainder of the decade.

The Flyers’ program lasted from the 1970-71 season to 1979-80 before the franchise folded and the remaining players went to Kerry Park.

The entire group of Flyers from that 10-year period was among the inductees into the North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame during a ceremony Saturday at the Cowichan Golf and Country Club in Duncan.

The arena opened in 1968 and Mike Armstrong, who spearheaded the nomination process for the Flyers and also played on the inaugural team, pointed out it was “two years later we had a competitive Junior B team. That, I think, is an outstanding accomplishment, not only for the players but the coaches we had.”

Players considered it an honour to be a member of the Flyers. They were like rock stars and games were broadcast on the local CKAY radio station in Duncan so those who couldn’t make it listened at home to Dave Rubenstein calling the action.

Young players coming up through minor hockey watching those initial teams wanted to one day wear the uniform and many eventually did while others, like Greg Adams, Doug Bodger and Robin Bawa, surpassed that to make the National Hockey League.

“You got to meet all your friends there – it was a lot of fun, great memories,” pointed out Bodger in a video presentation that was played as part of the awards ceremony.

“We all met there, wanting to be a Junior B hockey player.”

“Everybody in the Valley was talking about it,” said Rick Adams, older brother of Greg, a former Flyers’ player and coach.

The arena’s seating capacity of 900 was exceeded many times over the years, as fans packed standing room only into the building during the many regular season and playoff battles with rival teams that emerged in the South Island.

Despite the presence of some powerhouse teams in the Victoria area over the years, the Flyers always held their own and were frequently among the league frontrunners and a force to be reckoned with.

Upwards of 30 players from the Flyers’ heyday were there at the ceremony to celebrate the induction and renew acquaintances with some of their old teammates. Many hadn’t seen each other for a considerable period of time and all the players are now ranging in age from the upper 50s to the early 70s.

There are a large number of former Flyers still living in the Chemainus, Crofton, Saltair, Ladysmith, Duncan and south Cowichan areas.

The other 2019 Sports Wall of Fame inductees include: Wes and Roselyn Craig (curling); Patrick Kay (rugby); and posthumously to Brian McKinlay (fastball) and Ted Webb as a builder (basketball).

Outstanding community achievement awards were presented to the boards of directors and community volunteers from the four major Games hosted in the Cowichan Valley – the 1991 BC Winter Games, 2005 BC Seniors Games, 2008 North American Indigenous Games and 2018 BC Summer Games.

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Rick Adams speaks about the Flyers’ Junior B hockey program during a video segment. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Mike Armstrong receives the North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame plaque on behalf of the Fuller Lake Junior B Flyers program from Mat Ellison, a previous Wall of Fame inductee and long-time professional player in Russia who also had a stint in the NHL. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Former members of the Flyers are acknowledged in the audience. (Photo by Don Bodegr)

The Fuller Lake Flyers are now immortalized with a North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame induction. (Photo by Theresa Bodger)

Mike Armstrong spearheaded the drive for the Fuller Lake Flyers’ induction into the North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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