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‘More steps’ before BCHL team can move: commish

Surrey Eagles, others in favour of North Delta franchise, but nothing finalized, Grisdale says.
The Surrey Eagles and Coquitlam Express may be joined by another Lower Mainland team if an agreement to move the West Kelowna Warriors to North Delta is reached.

Despite a recent suggestion that a deal to relocate the West Kelowna Warriors to North Delta is all but done, BC Hockey League commissioner John Grisdale says there is still much work ahead before anything becomes official.

Grisdale, the longtime commissioner of the Junior ‘A’ hockey circuit, contacted Peace Arch News Thursday afternoon after reading a story on PAN’s website in which Surrey Eagles president Chuck Westgard – whose team would be a potential Delta squad’s closest rival – said he thought approval of the move was “99.9 per cent” complete.

The subject of having a BCHL team in North Delta – either through expansion or relocation of an existing franchise – was discussed last week at the league’s governors’ meetings, Grisdale confirmed, but no official decisions were made.

“We have regulations and a process… the application (for a team in North Delta) was in, and during the discussion stage, the West Kelowna Warriors (owner) had indicated that he had entered into a memorandum of understanding, a legal one, for the potential transfer of his franchise to North Delta.”

At that point, Grisdale told PAN that “it was agreed around the table” that the league would support the application changing from one of expansion to a relocation application from the Warriors’ team owner Mark Cheyne.

Had the league decided to stick with a plan for a brand-new team, the league and its members would have received a $1.2-million expansion fee.

“That’s the rate based on Wenatchee (joining the league),” Grisdale said. “We never voted on expansion – it may have been supported – but instead, the governors decided to look at it this other way, and see if they could help out their partner in West Kelowna and get him some of his money back, as opposed to getting nothing and have his franchise maybe go dark.

“It’s very fortuitous for him that there is this interest from North Delta.”

Now, Grisdale said, the relocation application will be sent back to the league’s franchise committee – made up of a handful of the league’s 17 team owners/governors – and from there, the potential ownership group in North Delta will be contacted, and a vetting process of sorts will begin.

“It’s at the stage where there is interest and we’re having discussions – all that is correct… but Junior ‘A’ hockey has failed in North Delta twice, so there’s no saying it won’t again,” he said.

“The next stage is to go through the process, ask all the questions, find out how it’s going to operate, get some initial numbers, financial projections – all that stuff. Otherwise, are we just moving Domino A to Domino B?”

As well, the league members would have to discuss divisional realignment should a team be placed in North Delta. Currently, Prince George plays out of the league’s Mainland Division, along with Surrey, Langley, Coquitlam and Wenatchee, and despite being hundreds of miles away from their divisional mates, Grisdale said the team is happy with the arrangement.

“Prince George is very, very happy in the Mainland Division. Basically, they just come down here, park their bus and play (all weekend),” he said.

“Surrey spoke in favour of (a new team) and I can see why Lower Mainland teams would be in favour of it… but that position might be different from others’ positions.”

Grisdale did admit that “time is of the essence” if a North Delta team is to begin play by the fall, but added that if new owners are approved, there would still be much work ahead before anything becomes official.

“There’s transfer fees, legal fees… all kinds of things that go into it,” he said.

“In today’s media age, the information gets out and suddenly the cart is out before the horse.

“I don’t want the good people of North Delta to think it’s a slam dunk, nor do I want them to think it’s not happening. There are just more steps to go through.”