Wednesday, March 8, 2017
BCHL News & Trades:
BCHL News & Trades:
Efforts Underway To Keep The Warriors In West Kelowna:
A public rally will be held to show community support for keeping the Warriors junior hockey team in West Kelowna. After years of losing money, the owner of the Warriors has a tentative deal to sell the club which would re-locate to Delta in the Lower Mainland. Rally organizer, Larry Mclean, says it would be a loss to hockey fans and the community as a whole. “The one thing that has united the west side has been hockey, says McLean. “There’s never been an us-and-them for hockey. We’ve all come together for hockey, whether it’s the Warriors who started it all or Hockeyville a few years ago when we were runner-up. The whole town was together on that.” The rally is next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Royal LePage Place. “It’s kind of snow-balled, I’d love to see 400 to 500 people out here Tuesday night,” says McLean. “Social media is taking off with it.” Meanwhile, a group of Warriors supporters is trying to put together a coalition of local investors to buy the team. “It’s going pretty good so far, we’re getting there but we need some help, we’re running out of time,”says spokesperson Alex Draper. “The shut off date is about March 15th. We’ve got a couple guys kicking the tires for sure but we definitely need more.” The BC Hockey League board of governors is expected to vote in mid-March on the request to sell the Warriors.
Nanaimo City Councillor Says WHL A Certainty If Vote Passes:
When Nanaimo citizens vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a multiplex, they’ll also be voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to major junior hockey. It isn’t included in the referendum question, but the prospect of a Western Hockey League franchise in Nanaimo could be part of the decision-making process for a lot of people leading up to the March 11 vote. Coun. Bill Bestwick told the News Bulletin last week that it’s a “100 per cent” certainty that the WHL will be coming to town if the referendum passes. Hockey hasn’t been a major talking point, however, because the municipality can’t reveal details of the league’s dealings with a privately owned club, reportedly the Cranbrook-based Kootenay Ice. Kim Fowler, Nanaimo’s chief sustainability officer, said that the WHL was leading those negotiations and that the city was working on a memorandum of understanding with the league. WHL commissioner Ron Robison would offer only a prepared statement, saying that “should the City of Nanaimo approve the construction of a new facility which meets WHL standards, the WHL will seek the necessary approvals to deliver a WHL team either through relocation of an existing franchise or expansion.” Bestwick was asked if being unable to talk freely about a Nanaimo WHL club handicaps the argument for a multiplex. “I think so, because it aids the people that don’t want this to happen, that are saying, ‘it’s never going to happen, the Western Hockey League’s not coming…’” he said. “But I get why we can’t. That’s why we’re not.” The WHL has repeatedly expressed interest in Nanaimo as a potential market during the past decade, and when Victoria rejoined the league in 2011-12 it renewed the potential for travel efficiencies on road trips to Vancouver Island. But it wasn’t until last summer, when city councillors decided on five strategic priorities, including a sports and events centre, that the WHL reached out to the municipality. So the multiplex became a priority before the WHL expressed renewed interest, not vice-versa, said Bestwick. “I don’t know who they connected with,” he said. “It wasn’t me, although everybody will probably say it was.” The 2019-20 hockey season became a target date, and although Bestwick acknowledged that accommodating the WHL has had some impact on the timeline for study and consultation, he said “you have to move at the speed of business” and he doesn’t feel the city has been rushed. “When we concluded our strategic plan and [chose] five items, I think right then, work began on all of them, recognizing that the process is a long one … so it had to start as expeditiously as possible,” he said. “It’s a long process all by itself just to get to the point where you can decide whether you’re going to do it or not.” He believes a WHL club in Nanaimo would see sufficient fan support. He pointed to the population of the mid Island, the “rich tradition of hockey” in the city, the attraction of the downtown location, and everything that comes along with the comfort and atmosphere of a new facility. Major junior hockey is one tier higher than the junior A hockey that is currently played in Nanaimo. The athletes are the same age, but many more go on to become top draft picks and stars in the NHL. Average attendance at WHL games in 2015-16 was 4,535, according to www.hockeydb.com. As a comparison, the Nanaimo Clippers of the B.C. Hockey League averaged 1,344. Fowler said Frank Crane Arena has been deemed acceptable as a temporary facility for a WHL team if a sports and events centre is being constructed in time for autumn of 2019. John Grisdale, BCHL commissioner, said the Clippers would be “dislocated” the moment a WHL team signs a lease at Frank Crane. The Clippers, as previously reported in the News Bulletin, have already discussed contingency plans and could consider relocating the franchise or suspending hockey operations.
Warrior-Delta Sale Dead:
The West Kelowna Warriors will not be moving to Delta. In an interview with Castanet News, Warriors owner Mark Cheyne said he has informed the BC Hockey League the sale to a Delta businessman is dead. "I had some concerns about their ability on the business side of the operation," said Cheyne. He said there were no issues financially or on the hockey side. But, he believes, with more time, the Delta group will be able to get their operation in order, and will come back. "They really want a team in Delta," he said. So, what does that mean for the Warriors? Cheyne said the prospect of selling the team to interests who would keep it in West Kelowna is still alive. He was heading out of town for meetings with a prospective group of investors when Castanet spoke with him. There are also a number of local investors still interested. But, Cheyne said, time is of the essence. "I have to make a decision soon," he said prior to boarding a plane for Palm Springs. "One way or another, I'll make an announcement at Friday's playoff game." Cheyne said other options are still open, including a move to Quesnel. The Cariboo community has just built a new arena and is looking for a tenant. An application for a franchise in the Junior B Kootenay International Hockey League was recently voted down. Other cities could also be in the mix, including Cranbrook, which could lose its Western Hockey League franchise if a new arena is approved next month in Nanaimo. News of the sale to Delta falling through should put a bounce in the step of Warrior fans, who have scheduled a rally outside City Hall tonight. The rally was planned to take place prior to Tuesday night's city council meeting, where team chaplain Don Richmond will ask council to reconsider a request to place 2016 championship decals on city vehicles. That request was voted down by council two weeks ago.
Nanaimo Has Memorandum Of Understanding With WHL:
Tracy Samra, the chief administrative officer for the City of Nanaimo, told city council on Monday that “we have a memorandum of understanding with the WHL.” That would indicate that all is in readiness for a franchise to begin play in the Vancouver Island city next season, depending on the outcome of a March 11 referendum. “That memorandum sets forward condition precedents that have to happen for the WHL to award a franchise to play in the City of Nanaimo,” Samra told council. She went on to say that “there are a number of conditions in that memorandum of understanding. They relate to key decisions that council will have to make if there is a yes vote.” Taxpayers of Nanaimo will vote in a referendum on March 11 as the city asks for the OK to borrow $80 million in order to build an events centre. In addressing council, Samra added: “There is a negotiation that has to take place between the city and the new owners of a franchise for the WHL. One of the things that the city has made very clear in its discussions with the WHL is that we are looking for a 20-year long-term commitment of a WHL franchise to this community. That will be part of the negotiations with a facility lease and license agreement.” Samra seemed to indicate that there is a WHL franchise out there that has new owners with whom Nanaimo will be negotiating. Or perhaps this is simply an indication that the City of Nanaimo has been told by the WHL that there will be new owners for a franchise and those owners will be involved in negotiations. Of course, if the March 11 vote is “YES” and no one steps forward in an attempt to purchase the Kootenay Ice, the WHL could always buy the franchise and operate it until new owners are found. There is precedent within the WHL for that kind of move. In 1995, the WHL bought the Regina Pats from a local group who had planned to sell it to the Ochapowace First Nation for $1.7 million. The WHL later sold the franchise to Diane and Russ Parker of Calgary in time for the 1995-96 season. The Ice has been for sale since 2012 and is believed to be the only franchise that is on the market at this point in time. Jeff Chynoweth, the governor, president and general manager of the Ice, couldn’t be reached for comment last night. Samra also made it clear that the construction of an events centre is based on having a WHL team as the main tenant. “(A) feasibility and business case study for the events centre is premised on having an anchor tenant,” she said. “The anchor tenant would be the WHL. If there is no WHL team there is no anchor and the business case for the events centre is not made.”
Warriors Not Moving:
Mark Cheyne says he never lost hope the West Kelowna Warriors could, and would remain in the city, despite mounting losses and a fan base too small to make it profitable. Once the offer from Delta was off the table, Cheyne said he was confident he could find enough investors to keep the team where it's been for the past 11 years. He found those investors, and, through team business manager Alex Draper, announced to the crowd during the first period intermission the team was staying. Speaking from Palm Springs, CA, Cheyne told Castanet News he doesn't have anything signed yet, but is confident enough things will fall into place to make the announcement. Cheyne wouldn't reveal who the investors are, or exactly how many there are, preferring to wait until everything is in place, likely sometime next week. "A few want more that 10 per cent ownership of the team," he said. "We're still working out how the percentages will work out." He also said he would be staying on as one of the partners for at least one more year. He is expected to remain the club's governor on the league's board of directors. "We have a real good team of investors," he said. "They're not just people with money, they also bring different skills and experience to the table." He's confident they can put a plan in place to turn around a franchise averaging just 927 fans a game this season, despite coming off an RBC Cup championship. The club did have a high of more than 1,200 fans their second year in Royal LePage Place. Cheyne said he couldn't have done any of this without the support of the Warriors community. "I have to thank the community for getting behind this and stepping," Cheyne said. "And, I have to thank our loyal season ticket holders and fans." Cheyne hopes to hold a news conference to announce the details sometime next week.