There was little discussion during Tuesday evening’s city council meeting before both options to host a Junior A hockey team in Williams Lake were rejected.
The proposal for the city to bring a Western States Hockey League or a Greater Metro Hockey League junior team to the city for the 2021/22 season — which both operate independently outside of Hockey Canada — has been up for debate over the past several months.
Tuesday night Coun. Jason Ryll said the decision was debated last month at a Central Cariboo Joint Committee meeting.
“At this most recent committee meeting it was discussed in great detail which led to the recommendation we have here today,” Ryll said.
“One of the items that was there was an investigation going on into one of the [former] coaches for the WSHL. In the report it was referred to the fact it was this investigation that had been concluded … I was in contact with the Edson RCMP just to verify whether there was an investigation or not into this coach and there is still an active investigation, so I think it is just another item that speaks to the overall dissatisfaction joint committee has and comes to this resolution we have here today.”
The investigation Ryll was referring to is an ongoing police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against a former WSHL head coach in Edson, Alta. That same coach, Bernie Lynch, has recently been charged with sexual assault and assault relating to an incident during a coaching stint in Saskatchewan in the late 90s.
Ian James, director of community services with the city, had recommended the WSHL over the GMHL in his report to the Central Cariboo Joint Committee, noting its athlete development model, sanctioning body in the Amateur Athletic Union and willingness to roster local players as benefits.
James’ report did note approval of the league’s request be based on the following conditions: that both parties agree to a year-to-year probationary facility rental agreement, and that WSHL acceptance by the city would be contingent on the outcome of an AAU and Alberta RCMP investigation into the player abuse allegations.
Weighing all the discussion, council rejected both options for a facility use agreement, following several talks during recent CCJC meetings.
During the April 28 committee meeting, Williams Lake councillors and Cariboo Regional District directors expressed concerns, as well as those from community members and ice user groups, and weighed results from a community engagement survey solicited by the City of Williams Lake in February, which ultimately proved inconclusive.