From the start, Kitimat was a strong hockey town with male, female, and minor leagues. Alcan sponsored the Kitimat Works Sports Association (1956) and Shifts A, B, and C organized league sports like hockey.
The Kitimat business community sponsored the Men’s Commercial League. Many all-star teams won championships including the Kitimat Winter Hawks, Kitimat’s senior men’s team that became the 1977 Pacific Northwest Champions. Three Kitimat players made it to the National Hockey League – Mark Fitzpatrick, Bill Riley, and Rod Pelley, and Fred Marsh invented the breakaway net peg now in use internationally.
Over the years, Kitimat skaters and teams have participated in the annual B.C. and Northern B.C. Winter Games. Eventually Kitimat with its amazing volunteer energy would host the 1993 B.C. Winter Games. In 1994, Kitimat hosted the Zone 7 selection camp for the under 18 female hockey team to attend the BC Winter Games in Comox that year. Kitimat players captured 13 of the 18 spots on the team! Most of the girls were from Schooley’s Sports Saints. Schooley’s Sports was a long-time sponsoring Kitimat business for both girls and boys hockey teams.
Kitimat NHL Players
(Goaltender) began in Kitimat minor hockey at age ten. He moved on to the Medicine Hat Tigers before his professional career with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Chicago Blackhawks. He was drafted 27th overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. Fitzpatrick was with the team one year before being traded to the New York Islanders in 1989. On June 9, 1990, Kitimat recognized Fitzpatrick on Mark Fitzpatrick Day at Tamitik Arena where the community came out to welcome him home. For the 1990-1991 season, Fitzpatrick was out due to illness. By 1992 Fitzpatrick had returned to the ice and, at the end of the season, received the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He retired in 2001.
(Bill) Riley (Forward) first played in Kitimat on a senior hockey team. Riley was scouted by the Washington Capitals (NHL) and awarded a try out during the Capitals’ inaugural season. Riley signed as a free agent with the Capitals’ during the 1976-1977 season, and played primarily with the Dayton Gems. Riley was traded in 1979 to the Winnipeg Jets, and later captained the New Brunswick Hawks (AHL) to a Calder Cup championship in 1981-1982. He retired in 1984 and moved into coaching. With the St. John’s Caps, Newfoundland, Riley was player, coach, and captain. He eventually served as Head Coach, General Manager, and Director of Player Personnel for the Miramichi Timberwolves, New Brunswick, within the Maritime Junior “A” Hockey League, and as Head Coach of the Moncton Wildcats during the 1996-1997 season.
(Centre) moved from Kitimat to the BC Hockey League, first with the Prince George Spruce Kings (2000 – 2002) then on to the Vernon Vipers for one season. After four seasons on scholarship with the Buckeyes, Ohio State University, Pelley signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils and scored his first NHL goal on November 8, 2007 against the Philadelphia Flyers. In 2011 Pelley was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He then signed partway through the 2012-2013 season to a professional try-out contract with the Ducks’ affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League (AHL). After one year, Pelley signed a one-year deal to return to the New Jersey Devils. Today, he is captain of the Albany Devils (AHL).