It’s been a long time since a championship banner has been hoisted in the Quesnel arena. It was almost eleven years ago that the Quesnel Millionaires had a banner hoisted in their name as champions of the Peace-Cariboo Junior "A" Hockey League. However, despite a series of losing seasons, if we turn back the clock, the Millionaires do have a history of winning. In fact, you could say that Quesnel was somewhat of a Junior B dynasty in the late 70’s.
The Mills and the Prince George Spruce Kings joined the old Peace (Peace River Region of British Columbia) Junior "B" hockey league which included Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Grande Prairie, for the 1975/76 season.
In only their second season as a Junior club, the team won the Peace-Cariboo Junior Hockey League Championship under the guidance of coach Wayne Inglis.
Not only did they finish first in their own division, they also went on to sweep Saanich in a best of three series that saw them win the Cyclone Taylor Trophy for the Junior "B" Provincial Championship.
The championship season would only be a taste of the future for the young club. After winning the PCJHL championship in the 1977/78 season again, the club would sweep Port Alberni to repeat as Provincial champions.
In the 1978/79 season the Mills would three-peat as PCJHL champions and also as Provincial Champions when they beat Burnaby two games to one in the championship series. It looked like Quesnel would be a Junior force for years to come, but the dynasty would fall and the club would struggle through most of the 1980’s.
In 1980, the PCJHL changed from a Junior "B" league, to a Junior "A" Tier II league.
The powerful Quesnel Millionaires faded, but after seven years without a championship the club would once again climb to the top under the guidance of Coach Tom Marsh.
In 1987 Quesnel Millionaires captured their fourth championship banner and their first as a Junior "A" club.
They finished fourth in the league and upset the highly favored Prince George Spruce Kings in six games in the semi-finals.
Led by local players such as Don Doucette, Mike Holyk, Terry Klapstein and Rene and Rick Gagnon, the Mills beat the Grande Prairie North Stars in five games to win the PCJHL title.
Three Provincial Championship banners now hang in the Quesnel Twin Arenas stemming from the early dominance of the Millionaires. They were BC Junior "B" Champions from 1976 until 1979, controlling the Peace Junior "B" Hockey League. From there, the Millionaires would begin a systematic climb from league to league, a move that culminated in the mid 1990s into the BC Hockey League, a league considered to be the top Junior "A" league in North America.
In the 1980s, Quesnel, along with Prince George, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, joined the new Peace Cariboo Junior Hockey League, and Quesnel's rowdy fans got their first taste of Junior "A" hockey, filling the Quesnel Twin Arena's, now known far and wide as the Vault, to the rafters. The 1986-'87 edition of the Millionaires was the next to lay claim to a championship banner, hoisting the PCJHL Championship with a convincing series win over Grande Prairie.
In the early 1990s, the PCJHL joined with the Kootenay International League to form the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League and the Millionaires would also stake their claim in "Rocky Hockey" as the Vault became one of the toughest places in the league to play in, where intimidation ruled and wins followed. Soon, however, the highest level of junior hockey beckoned, the BCHL, and Quesnel never looked back, taking its hard working philosophy into never-before-seen territory.
The BCHL. It is the cream of the crop when it comes to Junior "A" hockey. In reality, there is no other league that can compare with its ability to not only entertain, but to move its players onto bigger and better things. It was tough in the beginning for the expansion Millionaires, but digging back into its winning tradition, the Millionaires began to build a foundation in the BCHL, a foundation that culminated in playoff appearances in 2000-2001 and 2002-2003. With those playoff appearances, a new tradition began, a tradition of winning in the BCHL. It's a tradition that promises fans the hardest working team in the BCHL, and one that harkens back to those early years of blood, sweat and tears.