The Penticton Lakers have been sold.
During a conference call Thursday night, members of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League voted 15-2 in favor of the sale and relocation of the Lakers to 100 Mile House.
Andy Oakes, president of the Okanagan Hockey Academy which owns the Lakers, said the sale is a positive move.
“I think the community of 100 Mile House is a quality community for the KIJHL,” said Oakes. “I think it’s exciting for the league to be going into a new market.”
Oakes, who dealt with 100 Mile House president Tom Bachynski and his group, said he feels they will be a solid franchise.
As for selling the Lakers, Oakes said it is bittersweet.
“We have enjoyed having the Lakers, but it was time to move on,” he said. “It is nice to see it going to community that’s excited to have junior hockey.”
Bachynski said 100 Mile House hasn’t had a team in a junior B circuit since the Blazer club competed in the Cariboo Hockey League 30 years ago. There is a hunger in the community. Its midget rep team played their first home game two weekends ago and attracted over 300 fans.
Bachynski is part of a group that built the South Cariboo Recreation Centre nine years ago specifically to host a junior B team.
“It’s been a long run for us,” he said. “Christmas has come early. It’s the best gift we could have ever asked for. It was a pretty emotional night last night. It’s great for our community.”
Bachynski joked that he hopes Pentictonites won’t throw rocks at them and wishes the Lakers success the rest of the season and plans on making a few visits.
Having grown up in Nelson and being an alumni of the Leafs, Bachynski said he knows what a team can mean to the social fabric of a community.
“I look forward to seeing that fabric grow over the next few years of what the junior B team is going to bring,” he said.
The team will be known as the Wranglers and Bachynski said the name seems like a good fit.
“We wanted it to have an identity,” he said, adding that they have a Facebook page, 100 Mile House Wranglers. “Have people rally around it.”
The last hurdle is approval from B.C. Hockey. Bachynski is confident that is just a “rubber stamp” considering how the voting went.
Bill Ohlhausen, president of the KIJHL, said he’s hopeful B.C. Hockey approves it. It’s expected a decision should be made within a month.
“I think they will be a good partner for the other teams,” said Ohlhausen. “They seem to have lots of enthusiasm. They have a pretty good group up there that are involved. I’m sure they will make it work.”
By going into 100 Mile House, Ohlhausen said this will bring variety to teams as far as a new venue.
“I think it makes it very good for Chase and Kamloops and Sicamous and Revelstoke,” he said. “I think that’s a nice little division.”
Should the approval go, the Wranglers would hit the ice for the 2013/14 season.