The Greater Metro Hockey League is seeking expansion into Williams Lake.
On Thursday, the City of Williams Lake released a survey asking for public feedback while it explores the possibility of hosting a GMHL team in the community.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to bring forward a new hockey team and community sport to complement our Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association and Williams Lake Stampeders,” the city said in a release.
The GMHL brands itself as a “tier II” junior A men’s league and is not sanctioned by Hockey Canada. It started in Ontario in 2007 and expanded into Alberta in 2019 by absorbing some of the former teams of the Western Provinces Hockey Association.
Ian James, director of community services, said the GMHL made a presentation to the Central Cariboo Joint Committee which was approved unanimously on Dec. 16 where both councils asked James to prepare a report on the potential for a team in the league.
On Wednesday, Feb. 24, James presented his findings to the joint committee.
“The councillors liked what they heard and thought we should move to the next step, which is more community engagement,” James said.
“In my background check, Williams Lake Minor Hockey and the Williams Lake Stampeders were all supportive and willing to share the ice, and that was a key hurdle for us.”
GMHL west division expansion director Derek Prue recently told Black Press Media the league is hoping to expand into at least three northern B.C. markets next year. League staff would set up the team’s logistics, hire staff and recruit players.
Prue noted the GMHL will not require any capital funding or investment from the city.
At the next joint committee meeting on March 24, a formal decision could potentially be made one way or another.
“We’ll look at the survey results, hear Derek’s answers to some of the questions and concerns and be able to get a pulse of what the community is saying,” James said. “If we’re comfortable with all the terms, a decision would be made after that if everything is progressing nicely.”
If approved, the team would start play in the fall of 2021.
In its request for community feedback the city said they expect the addition of a GMHL team would bring increased tourism, positive publicity and increased opportunity for the community.
The GMHL’s bid to host a team in Quesnel, meanwhile, has come under fire from the Central Interior Hockey League’s Quesnel Kangaroos and the Quesnel and District Minor Hockey Association (QDMHA). Both organizations sent letters to the North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee earlier this month questioning whether the city should support a GMHL team.
The QDMHA’s concerns revolved around players bouncing back and forth between affiliated and non-affiliated leagues, along with the GMHL’s issues with stability.
The league expansion application in Quesnel is still pending.
The GMHL’s players pay between $8,000 and $10,000 per year to play in the league, Prue said.
Williams Lake’s last junior A hockey team was the Williams Lake Timberwolves of the BC Hockey League, who played its final season in 2009/10.
– With files from Cassidy Dankochik/Quesnel Cariboo Observer