Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BCHL News & Trades:

I found these press releases off team websites, twitter accounts, blogs or online. All Vipers news-trades are posted on this blog as soon as released-announced.

BCHL News & Trades:

Teams Looking At Royal Le Page Place:

 A deal isn't finalized, but teams are already sniffing around Royal LePage Place in advance of a likely move by the West Kelowna Warriors. City parks and recreation manager Bob Kusch, says teams have expressed an interest in playing in the arena if the Warriors move to North Delta as expected. "I can't say who those teams are," said Kusch. "They phoned into our booking clerk and expressed interest, and that's as far as it's gone." The move by the Warriors has yet to be finalized.  "We're in a serious holding pattern right now, because the BCHL still hasn't given permission on the transaction of the Warriors to take place," Kusch said. "We haven't received a request from the Warriors and Mark Cheyne to let them out of their agreement. We're just in limbo right now." Kusch says it's a top priority of the city to get another team into Royal LePage Place, be it a BC Hockey League or a Junior B team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. "That's a 100 per cent priority. It's community pride and a series of other things related to why Royal LePage Place was built," he said. "Having a Junior A or Junior B team is an anchor for that facility." The Warriors signed a five-year lease for the facility retroactive to the start of this current season. Kusch says there is an out clause with a year's notice. And, if another team is able to come in at the start of next season, those penalties could be waived.

Western Hockey League Prepares 2017-18 Schedule For Nanaimo Team:

The WHL is in the process of preparing two schedules for the 2017-18 regular season, one that would include the Kootenay Ice and one that would have that franchise in Nanaimo. Taking Note learned Thursday that the schedule that includes Nanaimo would feature two 11-team conferences, whereas the Eastern Conference now has 12 teams and the Western Conference has 10. Voters in Nanaimo are scheduled to go to the polls, likely on March 11, for a referendum. The question on the ballot will be: “Are you in favour of the City of Nanaimo Council adopting Loan Authorization Bylaw 2017 No. 7237 which will authorize Council to borrow a sum not exceeding $80,000,000, repayable over a period of no more than 20 years, for the development and construction of an event centre that will include an ice arena and other related entertainment, cultural and recreation facilities?” While preparations for that have been ongoing, the city also has been talking to the WHL about acquiring a franchise for the new facility, should it get the go-ahead from voters. It seems obvious that Kootenay is the franchise in question as the Chynoweth family has had a ‘for sale’ sticker on it since 2011. Should the ‘Yes’ side win the Nanaimo referendum, it is anticipated that a WHL team would play out of the Frank Crane Arena for at least two seasons while a new facility is being built. The Frank Crane Arena, which is the home of the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers, seats around 2,400. What isn’t clear is who would own the Ice were the franchise to relocate. However, the WHL has been thirsting to get a team into Nanaimo, something that would allow teams to travel to Vancouver Island and make stops there and in Victoria. That alone should increase interest in the franchise.

Mastrodonato Commits To Bulldogs For Next Season:

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are please to announce the playing commitment of Keaton Mastrodonato (Powell River, BC) for the 2017-18 season. Mastrodonato, a 5’11, 175lb, forward, is currently playing for the North Island Silvertips major midget program, which operates out of Nanaimo, BC. Currently, Mastrodonato has scored 35 points (21 Goals and 14 Assists) in 32 games for the Silvertips. He was named team captain for the 2016-17 season and has played 9 games as an affiliate player for the Bulldogs. Mastrodonato will be making the transition from the British Columbia Major Midget League to junior hockey and feels that the BCHL and the Bulldogs are the right fit for him and his family. “I am very excited to be joining the Bulldogs next season,” says Mastrodonato. “They have given me an opportunity to play this season and be part of their program, and I am looking forward to wearing a Bulldog jersey, helping the team win, and working towards an NCAA scholarship.” The Bulldogs will be looking for many other prospects and future players at our Spring Identification Camps, which will be held April 7-9th in Port Alberni and May 5-7th in Osoyoos, BC.

‘More Steps’ Before BCHL Team Can Move:

Despite a recent suggestion that a deal to relocate the West Kelowna Warriors to North Delta is all but done, BC Hockey League commissioner John Grisdale says there is still much work ahead before anything becomes official. Grisdale, the longtime commissioner of the Junior ‘A’ hockey circuit, contacted Peace Arch News Thursday afternoon after reading a story on PAN’s website in which Surrey Eagles president Chuck Westgard – whose team would be a potential Delta squad’s closest rival – said he thought approval of the move was “99.9 per cent” complete. The subject of having a BCHL team in North Delta – either through expansion or relocation of an existing franchise – was discussed last week at the league’s governors’ meetings, Grisdale confirmed, but no official decisions were made. “We have regulations and a process… the application (for a team in North Delta) was in, and during the discussion stage, the West Kelowna Warriors (owner) had indicated that he had entered into a memorandum of understanding, a legal one, for the potential transfer of his franchise to North Delta.” At that point, Grisdale told PAN that “it was agreed around the table” that the league would support the application changing from one of expansion to a relocation application from the Warriors’ team owner Mark Cheyne. Had the league decided to stick with a plan for a brand-new team, the league and its members would have received a $1.2-million expansion fee. “That’s the rate based on Wenatchee (joining the league),” Grisdale said. “We never voted on expansion – it may have been supported – but instead, the governors decided to look at it this other way, and see if they could help out their partner in West Kelowna and get him some of his money back, as opposed to getting nothing and have his franchise maybe go dark. “It’s very fortuitous for him that there is this interest from North Delta.” Now, Grisdale said, the relocation application will be sent back to the league’s franchise committee – made up of a handful of the league’s 17 team owners/governors – and from there, the potential ownership group in North Delta will be contacted, and a vetting process of sorts will begin. “It’s at the stage where there is interest and we’re having discussions – all that is correct… but Junior ‘A’ hockey has failed in North Delta twice, so there’s no saying it won’t again,” he said. “The next stage is to go through the process, ask all the questions, find out how it’s going to operate, get some initial numbers, financial projections – all that stuff. Otherwise, are we just moving Domino A to Domino B?” As well, the league members would have to discuss divisional realignment should a team be placed in North Delta. Currently, Prince George plays out of the league’s Mainland Division, along with Surrey, Langley, Coquitlam and Wenatchee, and despite being hundreds of miles away from their divisional mates, Grisdale said the team is happy with the arrangement. “Prince George is very, very happy in the Mainland Division. Basically, they just come down here, park their bus and play (all weekend),” he said. “Surrey spoke in favour of (a new team) and I can see why Lower Mainland teams would be in favour of it… but that position might be different from others’ positions.” Grisdale did admit that “time is of the essence” if a North Delta team is to begin play by the fall, but added that if new owners are approved, there would still be much work ahead before anything becomes official. “There’s transfer fees, legal fees… all kinds of things that go into it,” he said. “In today’s media age, the information gets out and suddenly the cart is out before the horse. “I don’t want the good people of North Delta to think it’s a slam dunk, nor do I want them to think it’s not happening. There are just more steps to go through.”

Nanaimo Waterfront Location Picked As Home For Proposed Event Centre:

The south industrial waterfront might sport Nanaimo’s proposed multiplex. Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay announced Monday that city council decided that 1 Port Dr. on the south industrial waterfront is the “best location” for the proposed event centre. The news comes as the city prepares for a referendum and releases information on financing. Nanaimo city council started exploring a potential multiplex last year after naming it a strategic priority, and consultants narrowed sites down to the Howard Johnson hotel property on Terminal Avenue or the city-owned Port Drive, which council has now chosen. McKay said the costs of acquisition and construction were estimated to be much higher for the Howard Johnson site, including land purchase, building demolition, site contamination and access. He also said 1 Port Dr. supports better technical analysis, including knowledge of geotechnical issues and transportation requirements, and offers the greatest certainty on which to base financial decisions. Kathryn Hazel, vice-chairwoman of the South End Community Association, called the announcement upsetting. The association had previously expressed disappointment to council that the conclusions of the South Downtown Waterfront Initiative, a process to come up with a vision for the waterfront area, hadn’t been taken into consideration. There’s also concern about parking. Hazel, who’s looked at the city’s transportation potential, also said there’s an assumption people going to events will park on surrounding streets which aren’t well lit and don’t all have sidewalks. There’s also concern cars will generate noise, pollution and traffic congestion. Snuneymuxw Chief John Wesley told the News Bulletin consideration of the site, also known as the Wellcox property, was a “big shock” after months of the city indicating it was looking elsewhere. “That’s not very good in my eyes. Wellcox is an extremely valuable area for the Snuneymuxw people historically,” said Wesley, who adds Snuneymuxw First Nation hasn’t agreed to an event centre going there and had offered a process to the city to address matters, but hasn’t heard how it will proceed. It’s “kind of disheartening,” he said. “I could say a lot but I am not going to because we’ve got to build a relationship and that relationship has to be considered by both parties.” Snuneymuxw owns land on the industrial waterfront where Wesley sees much potential, but he questions if it’s been realized and what would be needed to draw people to Nanaimo. A lot of things can go on the waterfront, he said, “if we get together and bounce these ideas off each other, maybe we can attract people to Nanaimo.” According to Tracy Samra, city manager, the city has been engaged with the Snuneymuxw since August on site selection, consultants have met with the First Nation and there have been multiple attempts since December to arrange council-to-council meetings about final site selection, all of which were cancelled by the Snuneymuxw. “It’s not that there’s a lack of trying by the city to get in front of them,” she said. McKay, in his announcement, called the Snuneymuxw’s involvement throughout the project critical. As for the South Downtown Waterfront Initiative, McKay said it didn’t enter into council’s decision in choosing one of the two sites, although he also notes he did not attend the discussion because he declared a conflict. Port Drive is not his personal choice, said McKay, who would have preferred something closer to the original visioning statement of the initiative for the area, but he said he has to uphold the will of the majority of council. At the end of the day, he said it’s going to be the community that’s going to make the decision. Coun. Jerry Hong doesn’t believe the waterfront initiative was ignored and that a lot could still follow through, although he doesn’t support what he could make out of the plan. He wants to see high rises, more residential and densification. It’s the last great space and as much as he likes parks, it’s not an economic driver, he said. He sees the event centre forcing the city to do infrastructure sooner rather than later and said it gives an economic driver for other people who want to be close to that, adding businesses like the liquor store, London Drugs and Thrifty Foods are ecstatic the city is going to draw more people to the area. Hong questions whether support for the Howard Johnson site would have been high if people were told “whatever millions of dollars extra” it would cost for demolition and site preparation as opposed to a site the city already owns. The ownership group behind the Howard Johnson hotel had announced plans in 2015 for a multiplex. Hong called it a long-term vision. “What happened, again, is we had an opportunity because there was a WHL team looking to relocate. The Howard Johnson site would have waited for a WHL team, another one to open up, we don’t know when or how long and that was their end goal,” he said. “If we weren’t offered a WHL team, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” He also said it’s the reason it’s being pushed so fast. If a referendum passes, Hong said it doesn’t mean the city will build the event centre. “If we don’t think it’s viable we will pull the plug,” he said.

Centennials Name Sallows Head Scout:

The Merritt Centennials announced today the hiring of Dan Sallows as Head Scout. Sallows is familiar with the Cents organization, as he served as the team’s Head Scout for the 2014-15 season before a brief stint with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League as a scout. During his prior time with Merritt, Sallows scouted and recruited players such as Colin Grannary and Brandon Duhaime, along with current players Michael Regush, Tyler Ward, Tyrell Buckley, and captain Brett Jewell. “I’ve missed being around the game over the past year, and working alongside (Centennials GM and Head Coach) Joe Martin. We think alike when it comes to the game, and it’s hard to find that comfort level sometimes,” said Sallows. “I was lucky enough to be part of a championship club in the USHL with the Indiana Ice in 2014, and I see a lot of similarities with the team in Merritt. I believe it’s going to be an exciting second half to the season and I look forward to being part of it.”

Last Chance To Save Warriors:

Could this scene be repeated again? Peter Siemers thinks there is still hope to save the West Kelowna Warriors franchise. A mortgage broker by trade, Siemers hopes to broker a deal to keep the team in West Kelowna. Last month, it was revealed owner Mark Cheyne was working on a deal to sell the team to a Delta business man. The team would be relocated to the Sungod Arena in North Delta in time for next season. Now, Siemers is trying to get 10 businesses or business people in the community to pony up $100,000 each to buy the team and keep them at Royal LePage Place. "I think a deal to keep it here is still alive. There is interest," said Siemers. "But, without getting it out to the public everybody thinks it's (move) already done. In reality, it's never done until the ink dries." Siemers believes he has three to four weeks to make it happen. Cheyne has said publicly he has lost about $300,000 a year over the past several years. When asked why business people would get involved with a team that has been losing money, he believes a new business plan could turn that around. He says that begins with increasing the season ticket base. "Minor hockey benefits from the 50-50 on an ongoing basis. If we can partner with them where every kid gets a (season) ticket...it would mean an increase in fee of $50. "It's not hard to realize if the Warriors go away, then so does the 50-50 contributions. There's a partnership there." Siemers also believes business owners would be able to tap into other businesses to purchase a block of tickets. "I would sign up to visit 20 businesses myself." The Warriors are completing their 11th season in West Kelowna, and while they boast a solid, and boisterous base of about 700 loyal fans, the team has been unable to attract enough additional fans on a regular basis to fill Royal LePage Place. Siemers has a meeting scheduled with the city next week as well. While he understands the city can't do anything financially, he does see an increased role. He believes the city could include ticket and game information with utility bills and the like. Any sale of the Warriors still has to be approved by the BC Hockey League's board of governors.

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