Party time in Spokane

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Now that the heavy lifting is finally done, Justin Falk and his Spokane Chiefs' teammates can focus solely on enjoying the fruits of their labour.

By defeating the Kitchener Rangers 4-1 on Sunday night, the Spokane Chiefs won the Memorial Cup and claimed the title as the best junior team in the Canadian Hockey League.

"We're on a high here right now and we don't have to worry about being on an even keel," Falk, a Snowflake product, said in a telephone interview from Spokane, Wash. "We get our time to enjoy things now. We've won everything that can come our way now and it's time to celebrate."

The Chiefs held a rally at The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena yesterday afternoon and the turnout was tremendous.

"We pulled into the rink and the bottom bowl of the arena was filled up with fans," said Falk. "We went onto the stage, said a few words and had the trophy there. There was a team video on the JumboTron and the fans went nuts."

By going 3-0 during the round robin, the Western Hockey League champions (they swept the Lethbridge Hurricanes in four games) earned a bye directly into Sunday's final.

What was going through their collective minds when they saw the Rangers thump the Belleville Bulls 9-0 in the semi-final?

"We kind of wondered what went wrong there. But we watched the video the next day and it was nothing to be intimidated by," said Falk. "That didn't affect our confidence."

No, it certainly didn't.

The Chiefs weren't intimidated at all and they completed their dream season with a tidy victory.

"It was truly amazing," said Falk. "To win the league is one thing, but to become the top team in all of Canada and major junior. It's something you don't see yourself doing in the summer, it seems like a far-fetched thing.

"But the work we put in throughout the year here and what we've overcome and how we've come together has been great. We're so proud of each other."

Falk, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 217 pounds and was a fourth round choice of the Minnesota Wild in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, is known as more of a stay-at-home defenceman but his solid, if unspectacular, play was enough to earn him a spot on the tournament all-star team.

"That's a great honour," said Falk, who had a goal and an assist in four games. "My style and type of play doesn't usually get a lot of recognition, if any. It's unbelievable."

Winnipegger Kevin Armstrong was also a member of the Chiefs, though he served as the backup goalie to Memorial Cup MVP Dustin Tokarski, who raised his draft stock significantly.

Once the celebrations cease, Falk will begin to prepare for next season.

Falk could end up in one of three places: in the NHL with the Wild, in the AHL with the Houston Aeros or back in the WHL defending his title with the Chiefs.

"We'll see where my future lies," said Falk. " I did the best I could and have no regrets from the tournament or the year. I'll be ready for camp and have another good showing there."

Wild assistant general manager Tom Thompson believes Falk has a bright future ahead of him.

"He's not a big guy, he's a huge guy with a long stick and great range," Thompson said in a telephone interview from Toronto yesterday. "He's got hockey sense and he's got poise.

"Is he a real physical force? No he's not. Is he a real offensive force? No, he's not. But he's a guy that logs a lot of minutes on the best defensive team in junior hockey and he's a big part of that.

"We're very glad we have him and we look forward to his continued development."


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