Wayne March, Sicamous Eagles general manager

Wayne March, Sicamous Eagles general manager

KIJHL rejects northern expansion

Travel costs influence vote against Quesnel addition

Quesnel’s Parallel Sports Group’s bid to bring a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) expansion franchise to Quesnel was once again turned down by the league.

Matt Kolle, who spearheaded the initiative, says he attended league meetings on Jan. 13 and 14, and presented the group’s bid to the KIJHL governors.

They voted it down, with 16 governors against, and three for, expansion. This is the second time the league has shut down Parallel Sports Group’s expansion bid. Parallel also applied in January 2017, along with a group from Williams Lake.

Sicamous Eagles general manager Wayne March supports the KIJHL’s decision to turn down the northern expansion. He said it may be feasible at some point in the future, but the cost is too much for current KIJHL teams to bear at this time.

“The cost of doing that is horrendous and one of the big things they had to look at was… There are some teams struggling in our league and you can’t put any more burden of expense on them travelling up there,” said March. “I think a couple of years down the road, it could happen, but now, until things are better in the league….

“At this point in time I’m not in favour of it.”

Despite another setback, Kolle says he is not done with the idea of bringing Junior B hockey to Quesnel.

“The feeling I got in the meetings was that the KIJHL governors do believe KIJHL hockey will eventually operate in Quesnel and Williams Lake. Right now, though, in their minds they are hesitant to take that first step because it presents change and change is unknown.

“They seem to know its the right step, but are just struggling to take it. I believe the first step was taken when the 100 Mile House Wranglers were granted their franchise, and what happens next is actually a natural progression for another division,” comments Kolle.

Following the group’s first bid, Kolle and his colleagues began a campaign to show the KIJHL that Quesnel is the right place for a team.

As part of that campaign, the Kamloops Storm have been playing regular-season games in Quesnel this season, with Storm general manager Barry Dewar on board with Kolle in believing that Quesnel is the right place for a Junior B team.

KIJHL president Bill Ohlhausen and other league governors attended games in West Fraser Centre in November, and were impressed with Quesnel’s arena. Ohlhausen said at the time, however, that the decision falls to the membership.

With files by Lachlan Labere, Eagle Valley News.

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