The arrival of a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) junior B franchise in Quesnel is one step closer.
Rob McMillan, an entrepreneur who grew up in Quesnel, has stepped up to head the cause.
“I don’t plan on running it myself, I’m planning for it to be more community-owned and operated,” McMillan said. “I want to give back to the city I grew up in and graduated from. I have a business background, I’m very passionate about hockey and I know Quesnel.”
McMillan is scheduling community meetings in late August, and is planning for the team to begin play in the 2022/23 season.
“It’s like a snowball. It rolls down the hill and gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “Someone has to light that torch, and I’m ready to do that, I just need someone to help me run with that torch.”
The KIJHL is looking to expand into both Williams Lake and Quesnel, with the Williams Lake bid headed by Rob Sandrock. Sandrock was behind a failed attempt to bring a junior B team to Williams Lake in 2018. The Quesnel proposal from four years ago was led by Matt Kolle, who has moved on to the Kamloops Storm.
Both franchises were denied. League commissioner Jeff Dubois said in June a lot has changed since then, with the KIJHL now more open to northern expansion.
“I was hoping someone would step up in the last six months, but no one has,” McMillan said. “I was waiting, waiting, waiting, and the KIJHL is supporting it, and Quesnel minor hockey supports it, unlike those other leagues that tried to come to town. This is the league that needs to be there.”
Two leagues unaffiliated with Hockey Canada, the Greater Metro Hockey League and the Western States Hockey League, proposed expanding into the Cariboo earlier this year, but were unable to gain wide support from local governments and the hockey community.
McMillan pointed to the 100 Mile House Wranglers, also playing in the KIJHL, as evidence Williams Lake and Quesnel franchises can be successful.
“You have a beautiful rink with no junior team,” McMillan said. It’s absolutely insane there’s no team. If you think about B.C. in general, every city from Nelson to Chase has a hockey team.”
While early in the planning stage, McMillan already has a plan for a team name, matching up with the minor hockey program, the Quesnel Thunder.
“It’s all tied in with the minor hockey program, and Thunderstruck would be the opening song when the boys come out,” he said. “You want those kids to strive to be on that team. That (should be) their goal, their aspiration, to be on the hometown team. That’s exactly my plan.”
McMillan said the KIJHL expansion fee would be $300,000, and guessed annual operating costs would be roughly $100,000.
The community meetings are planned for Aug. 19 – 21.
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