Monday, February 4, 2019

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:

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.

West Kelowna Warriors Issue A Cry For Help:

“Just one game is all it takes.” That was the opening line of an open letter to West Kelowna residents from the owner of their local Junior A hockey team. Kim Dobranski was appealing for his community to support the West Kelowna Warriors of the BC Hockey League before it’s too late. “Sadly, communities don’t realize what they have until its gone,” Dobranski wrote, citing the loss of minor hockey in other B.C. communities. “I recently visited Delta which is looking for a Junior A team and their minor hockey is struggling to the point of nearly folding, and Delta has a population of about 100,000,” he wrote. “Quesnel, who lost their Junior A team in 2011, saw a steady decline in minor hockey and are now struggling to enroll new kids. The overall community impact was so severe Quesnel funded a brand new $22 million building just to try and attract a team back, and so far, unsuccessfully.” The Warriors’ previous owner had attempted a deal to sell and relocate the team to North Delta in January of 2017. The sale collapsed. West Fraser Centre in Quesnel was completed for $20.6 million in 2017 and is equipped with an NHL-size ice and seating for 1,300. The BCHL Millionaires were sold in 2011 and moved from Quesnel to Chilliwack and became the Chiefs. There are just over 200 season ticket holders this year in West Kelowna, down from 240 last season and down from over 1,000 in 2006, according to the Warriors team owner and president. “For the last four months the Warriors organization has worked hard to reach out and engage the community to try and revitalize the organization,” Dobranski wrote. “If everyone came to just one game a year, we would be over sold every night.” Attendance at the last game the Warriors hosted on Dec. 22, was 1,585, according to the BCHL game summary from the night. Capacity is 1,500 plus standing room, according to Royal LePage Place, the host arena. Dobranski listed more than a dozen local charities and causes the Warriors have supported this season as proof the franchise is “a significant benefit to the community.” “No other organization can create so much opportunity for others, not only to fundraise, but to raise awareness for their individual causes,” he wrote. A night out at a Warriors game is an affordable local pursuit, he continued. “Great hockey, free parking, a concession with great food, affordable games tickets, and a great community atmosphere in a beautiful building,” Dobranski wrote. The Warriors are currently fourth in the BCHL Interior Division with 45 points. Dobranski leads the KD Sports Ltd. group that purchased the West Kelowna BCHL franchise in August of 2018. This season is the franchise’s 25th, beginning in 1994 as the Langley Thunder before moving to West Kelowna in 2006, where they would be known as the Westside Warriors. The name changed to the West Kelowna Warriors in 2012. The team won the national championship in 2016, but have since been plagued by financial shortfalls.

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.

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