Tuesday, January 24, 2017
BCHL News & Trades:
BCHL News & Trades:
North Delta's Sungod Arena Eyed For Junior A Hockey Franchise:
The owner of the West Kelowna Warriors of the BCHL wants to move the Junior A hockey team to North Delta’s Sungod Arena. The relocation bid, among other topics, will be discussed by the league’s board of governors at meetings today (Tuesday) and Wednesday. “We’re in negotiations, no doubt, but that’s where we sit until I get something on paper,” Warriors owner Mark Cheyne told the Now. “I’ll be honest and up front with you, the sooner the better, if it was going to happen for me, but it’s up in the air right now,” Cheyne added. “I’ll know more in the next two weeks probably.” BCHL commissioner John Grisdale confirmed “there’s interest for a team to play in North Delta, either a relocation or an expansion team,” starting in the fall of 2017. “Meetings are coming up but there may or may not be a decision on that,” Grisdale said on Monday. “The league will look where it’s at, where its existing franchises are, to see what’s best for the league. We have 17 franchises, and we have to consider what’s best for them.” The league’s six-team Mainland division currently includes Surrey Eagles, Langley Rivermen and Coquitlam Express as the franchises closest to North Delta, geographically speaking. Last season, the Warriors, who play in the Interior division, won the RBC Cup national championship among Junior A hockey teams. Despite the recent on-ice success, the team has struggled to attract crowds at Royal LePage Place, the rink in West Kelowna. “It’s about a chance to break even there (in North Delta) because we just can’t break even here, you know,” Cheyne said. “It’s just a better move financially. With the (WHL) Rockets here and everything, it’s just a case of (people) don’t support it here as well as they need to, that’s for sure, even with a national championship, a really good team last year. I was told all along, for 10 years, that once we get over that hump, win the division, win something, things will change here drastically, but that’s just not the case.” In November, Delta council supported a move to have Junior A hockey games played at Sungod, and a memorandum of understanding was drafted. The club is looking to play, on average, one home game and several weekday practices per week, according to a report to council from Ken Kuntz, Delta’s director of parks, recreation and culture. “The practices do not conflict with existing uses,” Kuntz wrote. “However, the home game schedule is planned for Saturday evenings, which is currently assigned to North Delta Minor Hockey Association. A key component of the MOU (memorandum of understanding) is that the association fully support a new club at Sungod. The association has agreed to relocate during the game times, subject to the provision of an equal amount of time at another facility” – probably Planet Ice, the four-sheet arena located under the Alex Fraser Bridge. Stephen VanSpall, president of North Delta Minor Hockey Association, said he is “pretty excited” about the possibility of Junior A hockey coming to Sungod. “Hockey of that calibre can only benefit the community of North Delta and also North Delta Minor Hockey Association,” he said. “It could help expand the interest of hockey in this area, in general, and result in more kids playing hockey. We’re definitely on board with the application.” The MOU calls for an initial five-year deal for a Junior A team at Sungod, and includes use of an office, dressing room, ticket booth, limited advertising sales and first right of refusal to operate the arena concession. Grisdale said the BCHL board of governors will decide whether having a team in North Delta “is the right thing for our league. “It’s a rink that’s kind of lost in time,” Grisdale said. “I haven’t been in there in some time but it’s been well-maintained but not with a lot of updates. There’s a lot of great hockey history there, too, and the BCHL was there once in the ’70s for a season or two. “We have support from the city and the community, no question, so we’ll see where this goes.” The Junior-B North Delta Devils played at Sungod until the end of the 2014 season, when they moved to Langley and became the Knights. Last fall, the PJHL franchise moved to Surrey and currently plays games at North Surrey rec centre.
Many Questions Remain About Proposed Nanaimo Event Centre:
Former Nanaimo City Councillor Merv Unger runs a website that provides information to the community, and with a referendum coming up, he believes his work is now more crucial than ever. He says voters don’t know enough about the project to make an informed decision. “They haven’t picked out the location,” he says. “They haven’t got a firm tenant. I believe if they get a hockey team to come in here from the WHL, we’ve got to get a long-term lease.” The Nanaimo Islanders played just one season at Frank Crane Arena back in the 1982-83 season and Unger is worried history may repeat itself. “All the NHL teams get long term leases, 20 years or so, and then they can’t just pack up and leave after one season and leave a community with an empty rink.” A coalition campaigning against the project also wants to know more, including the exact cost. “Is it going to be 100 per cent funded by tax payers? If so, then we’re probably looking at a bill of $100 million dollars,” says Don Bonner of novote2017.com “If not, then council needs to let us know what would be the breakdown.” And both sides say voters need to know the ballot question as soon as possible. “I think it would be in everybody’s best interest if they came forward with the question sooner, and with all the information we need to make an informed decision,” says Bonner. The City says it is providing as much information as it can, as fast as possible, and putting it on the a webpage devoted to the project. When will the public likely learn about the chosen location and the associated cost? That will come on February 6th, if not earlier said Kim Fowler, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Nanaimo. The City says the referendum question and other details will be released early next month and insists everything is being done by the book, so that voters will be provided with the information they’ll need come voting day.
Warriors Could Be Leaving West Kelowna:
One season after winning a national title, and just two months after getting a break on their arena rental rate, the West Kelowna Warriors are expected to relocate to North Delta. Team owner Mark Cheyne has sold the team and the BC Hockey League’s board of governors is in the process of approving the move, says an official with the Corporation of Delta. “My understanding is that approval is happening at league meetings taking place this week,” Ken Kuntz, Delta’s director of parks, recreation and culture, said Tuesday. Kuntz gave the name of the new owner as Kejun Wang. Representatives of Wang have already signed a memorandum of agreement with Delta officials for the use of the Sungod arena in North Delta. “Every indication is that this is positive hockey news for Delta, but maybe not so positive for West Kelowna,” Kuntz said. Cheyne could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Emails and phone calls to the BC Hockey League office in Vancouver were not returned. The Warriors, now in their 11th season in West Kelowna, won the RBC Cup national championship last year. But that on-ice success was not accompanied by financial profitability. The team lost more than $300,000 last year, and annual losses previously exceeded that amount, Cheyne told West Kelowna city officials last fall when he was seeking a rent break at Royal LePage Place. In early November, city council voted to reduce the team’s annual rent for the arena from $63,600 to $52,000, an amount said to be in line with that charged clubs in Vernon and Salmon Arm. But Cheyne had been aiming for a “significantly lower payment,” West Kelowna parks manager Bob Kusch told council. Attendance at Warriors games has averaged 840 fans for the team’s past three home games. The Royal LePage Place arena has a capacity of 1,500. The newly signed arena deal has a five-year term, but Kusch said Tuesday it could be terminated by either party with 12 months’ notice, or in a shorter period with the consent of both the municipality and the team. “We’re huge hockey fans here in West Kelowna, and huge fans of the Warriors, and we’ll miss them if they do decide to move,” Kusch said. “But who knows, another team might see the opportunity to come to our community.” The Surrey Now newspaper reported earlier Tuesday that Cheyne hoped to move the money-losing club to North Delta as soon as possible. “It’s about a chance to break even there (in North Delta) because we just can’t break even here, you know,” Cheyne told the newspaper. “With the (WHL) Rockets here and everything, it’s just a case of (people) don’t support it here as well as they need to, that’s for sure, even with a national championship, a really good team last year.” The BCHL has 17 teams, with other clubs in the Interior Division being the Merritt Centennials, Penticton Vees, Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Trail Smoke Eaters and Vernon Vipers. Although Penticton and Vernon have populations similar to West Kelowna, teams in those cities draw substantially more fans than the Warriors. The Penticton Vees have averaged 2,500 fans the past three years, and attendance at Vernon Vipers games since 2014 has averaged 1,850.
BCHL Continues With Bauer:
Bauer Hockey, the world’s leading manufacturer of hockey equipment, today announced that it has extended its multi-year partnership with the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) as the official equipment and apparel provider to the league and its nearly 400 players. The BCHL, one of the most successful elite junior leagues in North America, has sent several players directly to the NHL and is Canada’s No. 1 feeder league to college hockey. Last year, the BCHL sent a league record 148 players to college hockey and has historically sent 100-150 players per year to the college ranks. Last year, each of the league’s 17 teams had multiple college-committed players on its rosters and three players were selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. “Bauer Hockey has been an incredible partner for the past four years and continuing our relationship is exciting for our league, our teams and players,” said John Grisdale, BCHL commissioner. “The safety and the opportunity for our players to perform at their absolute best is of utmost importance to us and with BAUER we know our players are using equipment that is second to none.” As part of the partnership extension, each BCHL team will continue to exclusively wear BAUER uniforms, helmets, gloves, pants and off-ice apparel. In addition, the agreement provides each team in the league with BAUER sticks and bags. “We are excited to extend our partnership with one of the most influential junior leagues in North America” said Brad James, General Manager Team and Apparel, Bauer Hockey. “The continued relationship is a testament to the high level of innovative products and service that our team continues to provide to players at all levels. We look forward to working with the entire BCHL organization to meet all of their product and apparel needs for many years to come.”
'Feeling Of Emptiness' For Warriors' Fans"
Craig Musgrove is a self-described ‘diehard’ fan of the B.C. Hockey League’s West Kelowna Warriors. So when news broke this week that the club would likely be leaving West Kelowna at the end of the current season, Musgrove was, to say the least, distraught" “This has been difficult, the Warriors were very personal for me,” said Musgrove, a season-ticket holder for Warriors’ games at Royal LePage Place since 2010. “It’s been a meeting place, a social event where a lot of people with the same interests get together. Those things alone will be missed. “The hockey, of course, the players, the people in the organization,” added Musgrove, “they all become part of your life. “There’s just a real feeling of emptiness right now.” If all unfolds as expected, the Warriors will be headed to North Delta’s Sungod Arena for the start of the 2017-18 season. Warriors’ owner Mark Cheyne has signed a letter of intent to transfer ownership of the club to a Delta businessman, with the move subject to approval by the league’s board of governors. A money-losing venture since moving to West Kelowna from Langley in 2006, Cheyne took over sole ownership of the club in 2009. With an RBC Cup championship run last season, Cheyne hoped the club’s financial fortunes would finally take a turn for the better. But with community support for the team and attendance remaining stagnant this season, Cheyne said the writing was on the wall. “We were never even close to breaking even once and after awhile it’s just no fun anymore,” Cheyne said. “The last few years, you look for that light at the end of the tunnel, and when we won it all last year, we hoped that would be it. “I was told once you get by Vernon, once you get by Penticton, once you win something big, it’ll turn around,” Cheyne added. “But the light at the end never came.” Cheyne, who moved with his family to West Kelowna in 2007, said the decision to pull up the team’s stakes came with considerable soul searching. “It was difficult,” said Cheyne, “a long, hard decision. It hurts me and I know some people will be hurt this. But there’s not much else we can put into it.” For Craig Musgrove, the Warriors were the centrepiece of his family’s winter calendar and he wishes more could have been done to keep the club in West Kelowna. But Musgrove also understands the financial realities of operating a junior A franchise. “I can’t hold anything against Mark [Cheyne],” he said. “You can’t keep operating at a loss like that. Everybody knows BCHL teams don’t make money. “It was great, cheap entertainment for the fans, it’s really too bad they have to go.” If the sale goes through, the Warriors will leave Musgrove and hundreds of other devoted fans with some fond memories, thanks largely to last season’s magical run to a Canadian junior A championship. “The day they finally beat Penticton, that was one of the happiest days I can remember,” he said. “Then they went on a tear, won the Fred Page Cup, they won in Estevan, and then they took care of things in Lloydminster [RBC Cup]. "It was incredible what that team did, it was great to be along for the ride. They’ll leave us with some great memories.” And Musgrove vows he will be there right to the end, cheering on the Warriors to their last second on the ice at Royal LePage Place. “For me, that last game will feel like a disaster,” Musgrove said. “A really big piece of West Kelowna is going to be missing and that’s going to be tough.”
With The WHL Closing In, Clippers’ Future In Nanaimo Up In The Air:
The hockey landscape in Nanaimo could face a drastic change in the next few months and the Nanaimo Clippers could obviously be caught in the middle. With a referendum set for March 11 regarding the construction of a new events centre that would draw a Western Hockey League franchise as its main tenant, that leaves the B.C. Hockey League franchise very much in limbo. “We’re in a precarious situation,” David LeNeveu, president, governor and part-owner of the Clippers admitted after Day 2 of BCHL board of governors meetings on the mainland on Wednesday. “Obviously, if a WHL team comes to Nanaimo, that could displace the Nanaimo Clippers. There’s been no decision made on that side. “We’ve been working with the league to protect the league and protect ourselves and everyone involved, but there’s not much to say until March 11 happens. Everything is up in the air until that vote goes one way or another.” LeNeveu said the team’s mandate is to continue operating as normal: “Because we haven’t been told otherwise.” But the Clippers’ lease with the City of Nanaimo and Frank Crane Arena ends following this season and their desire to negotiate for 2017-18 has not been met. A WHL club would obviously supplant the Clippers, who know full well the Harbour City isn’t big enough to support both leagues. A move could be made or the team could choose to fold. The West Kelowna Warriors have already stated their hopes of moving to North Delta, citing financial losses. The West Kelowna franchise would relocate to Sungod Arena, which desperately wants the club there. And following league meetings Wednesday, sources confirm the Warriors will not be in West Kelowna next season. “You would never say there’s not room [for the WHL and BCHL in Nanaimo] because it is happening in cities across B.C. — Prince George and Victoria being a couple,” LeNeveu said of the Clippers’ circumstances. “Is that the ideal situation moving forward? No, it definitely wouldn’t. Is that possibility still on the table? Sure it is, but we’re going to be looking to take care of everybody’s organizations in the best possible way looking forward.” The team, currently stuck between a rock and hard place, has to plan ahead. “We have to look at all our options of how this is going to best go forward,” said LeNeveu. “For our franchise, and the city of Nanaimo, we are operating as if nothing is changing. We’re working on our season-ticket holders and sponsors, because if we don’t do that and the event centre doesn’t go through, we would be so far behind. “On the other side, we have to make sure we protect the interests of the league and all our various partners in the league and make sure all our options are explored and that we have contingency plans in place, just like any other business would have in any eventuality.” The obvious rumour making the rounds is that the Clippers could move to Campbell River, where the ownership group of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s Storm have been eying a BCHL franchise for some time. “We are exploring all our options and that’s something we can’t decide on today,” said LeNeveu. “They are operating a pretty good Junior B program out of there. If a BCHL team went in there, would they want to make improvements? Sure, but that’s not for me to decide.” LeNeveu said he has not had discussions with Campbell River or the Storm, which operate out of Rod Brind’Amour Arena, which seats roughly 1,000 and would require expansion. Linda Spooner, owner of the Storm, said the interest may be there down the road, but not at this time. That doesn’t mean someone else in Campbell River couldn’t step in. “Everyone makes that assumption [of the BCHL moving to Campbell River] because, honestly, on the Island it is the next place to go, right,” she said. So the Clippers will sit and await the referendum.
News From Semiannual Meeting:
The BCHL conducted its semiannual board of governors meeting this week in Richmond and a number of items arose that will potentially affect the league’s operations for the 2017-18 season. First, the board of governors approved a move to a 23-man roster for next season. Teams have been operating with 22-man rosters since the 2012-13 season. Also, the board has directed its Franchise Committee to review a franchise transfer application. This is a result of talks between West Kelowna Warriors owner Mark Cheyne and a group interested in purchasing his franchise and moving it to North Delta’s Sungod Arena. It is the responsibility of the Franchise Committee to make a recommendation to the board of governors as to what would be best course of action for the BCHL and all its member clubs in this matter. The Franchise Committee is also to determine a timeline to when this potential transfer would be voted on by the board. Finally, regarding speculation on the Nanaimo Clippers and a possible impact to their operation from a relocating Western Hockey League (WHL) franchise, the city of Nanaimo is holding a referendum on March 11 where residents will decide whether or not they want the city to proceed with construction of a new hockey arena capable of hosting a WHL franchise. Nothing can be decided about the Clippers’ future until the results of the referendum are known.