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Cranbrook Interested In Joining BCHL:
The Western Hockey League is leaving Cranbrook after this season, now that it's official the Kootenay Ice is shifting to Winnipeg. The WHL's pain could be the B.C. Hockey League's gain. Cranbrook, a city of about 19,000 with an arena that seats 4,268, is on the BCHL's radar for expansion, which might open up possibilities for other cities in the Kootenay region to join the junior A league. "I know there's two separate groups in Cranbook that have approached our office and made some inquiries about the possibility of them joining our league and what the logistics of that would look like," said Prince George Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes. "It's very early in the proceedings and very preliminary at this point but those groups are meeting with our league and discussing some options to see if it might work. I think Cranbrook would be a great fit for our league." The arrival of the WHL in Cranbrook in 1998 essentially killed the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League when one of its core franchises, the Cranbrook Colts, folded that year. That reduced the RMJHL to four teams (Creston, Fernie, Kimberley and Nelson) and the league ceased operations in 1999. Those four cities now have junior B teams in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and Hawes says the BCHL is looking into whether there is any interest in those markets to upgrade to junior A. "We just had our semiannual general meeting last week and it was something we talked about at the meeting amongst governors that if Cranbrook was something we thought would be viable we should seriously take a look at some other areas," said Hawes. "I suggested maybe Nelson or Fernie. There certainly has to be some interest from those communities, first and foremost. Our league's not going to go in there if there's no interest. I know Nelson and Fernie do well in the Kootenay league and I think it would be a great market in those two communities and Cranbrook would be as well. If we could add one or two in that area that would sure be nice." With Trail already in the BCHL, Hawes said having more than one team in the Kootenay region would shrink the distances between cities and give existing teams more teams to play in closer proximity on their weekend road trips. Hawes expects to have more information in the next few weeks about the Cranbrook situation. Adding an 18th franchise would require realignment of the divisions and he said it's not likely expansion would occur in time for next season. The most recent BCHL expansion brought the Wenatchee Wild into the league in 2015. The Wild paid a $1.2 million franchise fee, which was distributed to the existing teams.
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West Kelowna Warriors Issue A Cry For Help:
BCHL And AJHL "Open" To Potential Opportunities In Cranbrook:
The British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) and Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) have not directly opposed the idea of Cranbrook potentially having a Junior A hockey team in the future, following news this week that the WHL will be relocating the Kootenay ICE to Winnipeg. Reaching out to the BCHL and the AJHL for their views on expansion or relocation, the BCHL declined to have an interview with Summit 107 but did issue a short statement, not ruling out the idea. "The BCHL is open to exploring opportunities in Cranbrook," the league told Summit 107. However, Ryan Bartoshyk, Commissioner of the AJHL, did speak to Summit 107, noting that the AJHL isn't closing the door to any potential opportunities in Cranbrook, but that they also aren't actively engaged with anything at this point in time. "Right now, the AJHL isn't actively pursuing expansion as a league," Bartoshyk told Summit 107. "We're really working internally to ensure our existing members are viable and strong and ultimately as a league, we're strong and viable moving forward." While expansion definitely isn't on the mind of the AJHL, Bartoshyk said they would be open to potential relocation should an existing team in the league want to hop the B.C. Alberta border into Cranbrook. "I think if the scenario did come up where one of our members came to our table with a relocation request and that community was Cranbrook, I think it would be worth listening to and definitely explore if it did make our league better." "I think it would be naive not to look at it if someone came to the table with it," added Bartoshyk. "I think there's a passionate community there for our game and I wouldn't close any doors on it." Although the AJHL hasn't directly opposed the idea of having a Cranbrook franchise, there would be additional protocols and procedures for the AJHL than the BCHL, having to work with two provincial hockey organizations. "There would be a few hurdles working with our various branches, Hockey Alberta and BC Hockey, to explore what that partnership would look like and how players are managed and moved." At this time, there is no confirmation that Cranbrook will receive a Junior A hockey team from either league, but that doesn't mean that the community is out of the conversation either.