Williams Lake Stampeders
The current version of the Williams Lake Stampeders were formed in 1996. However, the previous incarnation of the Stampeders were the pre-emanate hockey team, and central form of entertainment in the community for more than 40 years, (1930's to 1970's). The first senior hockey team in Williams Lake was formed in the early 1930's. Tommy McDougall was the driving force behind the team, and an important part of its early history. That first senior team was initially know as the "Lakers" and later became know as the "Stampeders"
The Cariboo Hockey League was officially formed January 1936 with teams from Prince George, Quesnel, Vanderhoof, Lac La Hache, Canim Lake, Soda Creek and of course, Williams Lake. Wells also iced a team in the early years of the league. At the time of the league formation, a new trophy know as the Waller Cup was donated for league competition, and eventually became emblematic of senior hockey supremacy in the central interior of British Columbia. There were other trophies and cups that senior teams could challenge for in the early days of the C.H.L. Included were the Elsley Cup, McKinley Trophy and Loop Trophy, but eventually fell by the wayside, as the Waller Cup became the trophy of champions. Not until the 1965-1966 Waller Cup champions, Quesnel Kangaroos, did a C.H.L. club finally win the Coy Cup, which to this day is awarded to the Senior AA hockey champions of British Columbia.
The Williams Lake Stampeders first Waller Cup championship was not until 1961. The Stamps defeated the Quesnel Kangaroos 4 games to none in the final series. Scores in those 4 games were never in doubt as evidenced by 10-5, 12-4, 8-4 and finally 7-4 in the clinching game 4. The Stamps were only able to win the league crown on one other occasion, the 1962-1963 season, and have never been able to win the Coy Cup in their previous or current history. (The Stamps did most recently play in the 2002 Coy Cup championship tournament, but were only able to win one game during that tournament).
The Stamps remained an integral part of the community through the 1960's and 1970's. In the early to mid 1960's, crowds of 700 to 900 were common place at a Stamps home game. In 1970, for the first time in their history, the Stamps traveled north to the South Peace Hockey League to experience the competition. The club defeated both the Hythe Mustangs and Fort St. John Flyers before returning home. In 1974, the Stamps hosted the Polish national team and played the visiting squad to a tie. By the end of the 1970's, ice time availability and cost, as well as diminishing attendance resulted in the Stampeders folding in 1979. The Cariboo Hockey league continued on into the 1980's but eventually ceased operations after the 1984-1985 season.
In 1996, the biggest sports stories of the year saw the Williams Lake Junior A Mustangs suspend operations in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. Near the same time, there was news that a group led by Bob Ferris was finalizing plans to bring the Stamps back to the city after a 17-year absence. The Stampeders became part of a new senior hockey league know as the Central Interior Hockey League. The Quesnel Kangaroos, Mackenzie Moose and Fort St. James Stars were also part of the new league. The first game the "new" Stampeders played was an exhibition home date against the Powell River Regals on October 26, 1996. The game, played before a sold out arena of over 1,000 fans ended in a 4-4 tie. Senior hockey was once again part of the fabric of the Williams Lake entertainment scene. The Stamps finished that first season with a record of 9 wins and 3 losses, and met the eventual Max Cup and Coy Cup champion Fort St. James Stars. The Stamps went down to defeat 2 games to none in the league final series.
The team has had its ups and downs since it's revival in 1996. At times, playing as an independent senior "AA" team, trying to schedule enough exhibition games to qualify for playoff action. At other times, playing as a member of the C.I.H.L. This past season, (2003-2004), the Stamps were part of the newly re-formed Central Interior Hockey League with teams from Kitimat, Smithers, Houston, Burns Lake and Mackenzie. The C.I.H.L has added 100 Mile House and Terrace for the 2004-2005 season. The future looks very good for senior hockey in Williams Lake, and central British Columbia.
Over the years, there have been many players who have laced up the skates for the Stamps, both local boys and out of town talent. Many of these players have gone on to become prominent citizens in the community. The following list of former and current players is by no means complete, but does indicate some well known Williams Lake citizens who have played for the local senior team:
1930's - 1940's: Jack Moore, Wilf Moore, Roy Woodland, Wilf Hodgson, Percy Pigeon, Jack Moxon, Vic Gaspard, Ed Gaspard, Jack Renner and John Anderson,
1950's - 1960's: Frank Latin, Dal Irvine, Gord Smetanuk, Reg Norberg, Doug Norberg, John Gibbon, Jack Telfer, Butch Rife, Sid Pigeon, Archie Gabor and Carl Buchholtz, (who was declared at a 1995 team reunion to be "Mr. Stampeder" for over 20 years with the squad),
1970's: Willie Dubray, Gary Crosina, Ron Doig, John Margetts, Ron Barkwell and Gary Duthie, (whose number was retired after his untimely death in 1975),
1996 to present: Dino Lecomte, Rob King, Josh Wolbers, Robin Gilbert, Ryan Philpotts and Aaron Zurak, who have all been with the team since the first or second seasons.
The Stampeders have a long and storied tradition in Williams Lake, and with continued support from both the corporate community and from you the fans, the Stampeder tradition will continue long into the future.