The landscape of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League could look very different a few years from now.
So, it was with the possibility of change in mind that the Kamloops Storm played host to the 100 Mile House Wranglers for a regular-season game in Williams Lake on Nov. 28.
“The long and the short of it is, it’s an attempt by the league to spark some interest in junior B hockey in Williams Lake,” said Kamloops Storm general manager Barry Dewar.
Dewar is also a member of the KIJHL’s franchise committee.
“I think the board wants to look at all alternatives and all possibilities about where to be at and what the footprint of the league should be.”
Dewar said the league has been approached about putting a team in Quesnel, but would also need a team in Williams Lake in order to make the northern location work.
Earlier this season, 100 Mile House played the Chase Heat in a regular-season game in Quesnel, in front of about 361 fans.
Dewar hoped the Storm and the Wranglers would draw a crowd of about 300, but said possibly, due to the freezing cold temperatures of the day, that didn’t come close to happening.
“The roads coming in from out of town were treacherous,” he said. “That’s understandable.”
The Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex, former home of the junior A Williams Lake TimberWolves, has a capacity of about 800.
The Storm general manager said he has had conversations with a few interested parties in Williams Lake, but most are taking the wait-and-see approach. He said potential owners are reluctant to put down the franchise fee, about $150,000, without a firm idea of the club’s eventual popularity.
“I think if you can get a solid 300 people there, I think you’re going to be able to present a case to someone up there that, with local ownership and local players and local initiative, they’ll be able to put 500 to 600 people in the barn,” he said.
“I think somebody could make a ton of money running a junior B team [in Williams Lake].”
Also on the radar are rumours of teams considering leaving the junior A B.C. Hockey League in favour of joining the KIJHL or another junior B league.
The Prince George Spruce Kings, Merritt Centennials,Trail Smoke Eaters and Powell River Kings are among the teams predicted to be on the move around this time every year.
“There’s a lot of rumours that some of the B.C. Hockey League teams will not stay in the B.C. Hockey League and that they may be looking to come into the KIJHL in the near future,” Dewar said.
“So, if that happens, then, all of a sudden, realignment is going to be necessary and it might be, at that time, we may need some more teams to make a third conference.”
– With files from Greg Sabatino