Moray Keith may want the BCHL, and the BCHL may want Chilliwack, but league commissioner John Grisdale said Wednesday there are many questions to be answered before that would become a reality.
Chief among them, how committed would Chilliwack be to the junior A circuit?
Having already jilted the BCHL once in favour of the Western Hockey League, would Chilliwack be coming back for the long haul, or only until the return of major junior?
“The league is building on a long-term basis, and we’re not sure what Chilliwack’s long-term interest in the BCHL would be,” Grisdale said. “If it’s a matter of them coming in while they continue to look for a better opportunity, then it might not be in our best interests. So that is definitely a question we would ask.”
And what would the right answer be?
If Moray Keith and business partner Jim Bond remain intent on securing another WHL team to eventually play in Prospera Centre, what does the BCHL push for to keep history from repeating itself?
“Obviously we would like them to say they’re committed to the BCHL for X number of years, recognizing that markets and interests change,” Grisdale said. “Obviously that facility (Prospera Centre) was built with something bigger in mind, and those questions need to be put in front of them.”
It’s obvious that the BCHL is interested in Chilliwack, once one of its most successful markets in the heyday of the Chiefs.
That much is evident in the league’s willingness to extend deadlines to accommodate the possibility of a Quesnel to Chilliwack relocate.
According to Grisdale, the normal deadline for teams to declare their intentions is Dec. 1.
“That includes the application process, business plan, ownership identification and so on,” Grisdale said. “In this instance, I had to go back to the board of governors and ask them if they were interested in hearing a relocation application at this point.”
The BCHL’s franchise committee had a conference call on Sunday, and another on Tuesday, at which point they green-lighted the potential sale and relocation of the Quesnel Millionaires.
“But as far as I know, there’s no offer to buy the Millionaires, so there’s nothing for the board of governors to look at yet,” Grisdale cautioned. “We don’t even know who the proposed owners would be at this moment. All of that has to get done between the current Quesnel ownership group and the potential buyers before it gets brought before the league.”
What Grisdale can say definitively is that BCHL hockey will not be played in Quesnel next season.
Millionaires president Bob Sales told the Quesnel Cariboo Observer that the team has lost $300,000 over the last two years, although the franchise remains in good standing with the city.
“We have cleared up the old ice debt with the city,” he said. “We promised to pay it off and we did and we are very proud of that. Right now, Chilliwack is a good option for the kids because it would keep them together as a team.”
With the calendar just flipped to May and hockey training camps starting in August, the clock is ticking.
A new team in Chilliwack would have to go into the community and try to repair countless bridges scorched by the outgoing Bruins.
Corporate sponsorships would need to be secured and season tickets would need to be sold.
“I think Chilliwack is a great hockey market, and I wasn’t privy to how successful the Bruins were or weren’t,” Grisdale said of the departed major junior team’s business woes. “Any ownership group will have a business plan that will be very comprehensive under our regulations, and they’ll have to show us how they feel they can generate fan and sponsorship interest.”
On the hockey side, a general manager would have to put together a team on the fly, missing out on prime recruiting time.
At this juncture, only a miracle worker might be able to ice a playoff-worthy team next season.
The 2010-11 Mills went 13-28-3-6 during the regular season, finishing seventh in the eight team Interior conference.
They were quickly dispatched from the playoffs in four games by the Penticton Vees.
The roster making the move to the Fraser Valley would need an awful lot of work.
On the plus side, 14 of the 16 BCHL teams make the playoffs every year and there is a man lurking in the wings who might be classified as a BCHL miracle worker.
Paging Harvey Smyl.