And so ends Chilliwack’s first flirtation with a Western Hockey League franchise – not with the celebration of a championship win, or even the hopeful expectation of a next season, but with the odour of a relationship gone sour.
The WHL finally confirmed this week what few people doubted; that the Chilliwack Bruins were in the process of being sold. Formally, the deal is not yet done. But practically, it looks certain. The sale is conditional; the WHL just won’t say what those conditions are.
That leaves fans here waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop.
In the absence of information, speculation flies.
At a rally held Wednesday evening there were plenty of theories on what would happen next.
Indications are that Chilliwack will have a team of some kind. Certainly Bruins minority owner Moray Keith would want that. His Chiefs Development Group holds the 20-year lease on the Prospera Centre. And not only does it make good business sense to have a tenant, it’s part of the lease agreement with the City of Chilliwack.
But which team?
The Prince George Cougars, which actually left Victoria for greener pastures, is struggling with its own attendance woes. It was one of the teams rumoured to be heading to Chilliwack. However, vice-president Brandi Brodsky, says her team is staying where it is.
The Kootenay Ice was another team rumoured as a possibility.
Whatever team ends up here – if any – it will likely face a cautious reception.
Yes, fans here will welcome another competitive season of major-junior hockey. But that support will be tempered by memories of how this season ended.
Sports franchises rely on two things: fan support (preferably through season tickets) and corporate support.
Both those commodities have taken a beating.
If there is WHL hockey in Chilliwack this fall, it truly will be “a building year” – not only for the team, but also for the relationships bruised by this awkward and ungainly divorce.
Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress