Chemainus’ Liam Craig is still playing high-level hockey and he’s become known around Dawson Creek as ‘Mr. Game Seven.’
Craig, 26, wearing No. 67, just happened to score one of the biggest goals in the history of the Dawson Creek Canucks senior men’s team this season in the North Peace Hockey League.
It was one of those games every hockey player dreams about, netting the winner in Game Seven in overtime during a championship series in front of a rabid sold-out hometown crowd.
The Canucks captured their first Campbell Cup – emblematic of the NPHL championship – in 20 years, thanks to Craig’s heroics. His overtime winner gave the Canucks a 4-3 victory over the Fahler Pirates of Alberta to also decide the series in their favour 4-3.
“That’s what you play for,” conceded Craig. “That’s pretty cool.”
It’s not the NHL, he added, but still a top calibre league with many players having major junior experience and extensive backgrounds in hockey.
On the winning goal, Craig seized a huge opportunity at the edge of the crease. “I just tried to tap it five-hole as quick as I could,” he said.
A huge dog pile of celebrating players ensued with Craig on the bottom and Dawson Creek’s been going crazy ever since where everybody knows his name if they didn’t already.
“It’s got a real small-town vibe,” said Craig.
He’s been getting treated like royalty with free haircuts and basically has a key to the city. Craig still can’t go anywhere two months after it happened without talking about the big goal.
The Canucks took 19 playoff games to attain the title after previously beating Fort St. John in five games and Spirit River in seven. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much in the tank for the players in the ensuing Coy Cup playoffs and they lost four straight games.
Hockey’s not a full-time job for these guys so it took a toll.
“Our guys are working shift work,” noted Craig. “You’re scrambling to get to the rink in your overalls and work boots. It’s a lot of sacrifice. Nobody on our team gets paid. A lot of guys played good hockey, too – a lot of talented guys.”
Craig is a Red Seal millwright, working as an industrial mechanic in a small machine shop in Dawson Creek that fixes and maintains industrial equipment. Despite the hectic schedule, it’s the most fun he’s had playing hockey.
“An extremely positive environment, very supportive,” Craig said. “We’re all adults. If you make a mistake and do something wrong, you don’t need your coach to yell at you.”
The team had won three straight Coy Cups and wasn’t entirely disappointed not to extend the streak after ending the Campbell Cup drought.
Craig’s championship goal will live on indefinitely. He also received the Canucks’ Clint Switzer Heart and Soul Award this season.
Ironically, another Chemainus player, Mike Ronningen, was a member of the last Dawson Creek team to win the Campbell Cup in 2002-03.
Craig played in the Cowichan Valley minor hockey system until 2014. He spent one season with the Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and then didn’t play hockey for two years after graduating from Chemainus Secondary School and attending UVic.
Craig moved to Dawson Creek in September of 2017. Through his millwright instructor, he found the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks (now the Kodiaks) of the North West Junior Hockey League and played two seasons with them until 2019, finishing as a 21-year-old.
Craig was immediately brought up by the Senior Canucks in 2019 when the junior season ended and the team won its second Coy Cup and his first.
Craig’s 2019-20 campaign with the Senior Canucks as a 22-year-old ended early in the playoffs during March of 2020 due to COVID and there was no hockey at all in 2020-21.
The 2021-22 season featured exhibition games all over B.C. and Alberta to qualify for the Coy Cup. The Canucks eventually defeated the Central Interior Hockey League’s Terrace River Kings in a best-of-three series 2-1 for the team’s third Coy Cup in a row and Craig’s second.
The NPHL, an eight-team league, returned in 2022-23. Craig and his Canucks teammates finished first during the regular season with 19 wins, one regulation loss, one overtime loss and one shootout loss before starting the long playoff run to Campbell Cup glory for the first time since 2002-03.
The Canucks made the trip to Quesnel to end the year and fought hard with multiple injuries but ultimately couldn’t pull through. But the previous Campbell Cup triumph helped remove the sting.