Summerland scores junior B club
The return of junior hockey to Summerland became official earlier this month.
BC Hockey, the provincial body governing hockey in B.C. approved plans by Dr. Jonathan Bowman to establish a Junior B team. The decision clears the path for the team to hit the ice in the fall of 2011.
The team, still searching for a name, gained approval to join the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League as its 20th franchise last November.
Bowman says he believes the team will succeed in the community, which lost its previous junior B franchise to Penticton when the former Summerland Sting moved to the Peach City after the 2008-2009 season. It became the Penticton Lakers after the Okanagan Hockey Academy had purchased the team to play out of the South Okanagan Events Centre. The Sting operated in Summerland from 2001 to 2009.
“We feel that there is a lot of interest for junior hockey in the Summerland area,” says Bowman, pointing to a wide variety of community organizations, who have expressed support for the team.
The new Summerland franchise plans to play out of the 800-seat Summerland Arena, hoping to draw about 400 fans per game.
Bowman also rejects the suggestion that the team might find it difficult to establish itself in a local hockey market place in which Penticton’s Junior A BCHL franchise can look back on a long tradition.
“The KIJHL is a totally different league,” he says. “It is a different kind of hockey.”
KIJHL president Bill Ohlhausen believes the addition of Summerland will benefit the league as well as the community.
The on and off-ice success of the Osoyoos Coyotes, which joined the league last year, demonstrates this possibility, he says.
Summerland would join the league’s Okanagan division. This alignment sets up the possibility of some fierce grudge match between the two communities.
“It could create a good rivalry,” said Ohlhausen.
But much work remains to be done before this possibility becomes reality, starting with the selection of a team name.
Bowman said in an earlier interview that the community will likely get a chance to offer some input.
As for the actual players, Bowman says the team will try to field as many local players as possible in keeping with its community-based approach.