The head of BC Hockey says the decision to relocate two major midget teams from Nelson to Trail wasn’t easily made.
Barry Petrachenko, the CEO of the provincial hockey body, said Wednesday he didn’t expect to hear so much local opposition prior to the move of the Kootenay Ice boys and Kootenay Wild girls teams, which was confirmed earlier this month.
“I was surprised by the reaction and somewhat to this day sad that we had anything to do with a decision to move a team out of Nelson because that’s not the business we’re in,” said Petrachenko. “We’re in the business of building hockey programming and the fact that Nelson has such a passion for it, I love that.
“And yet at the same time it makes my job a little more difficult because we have to make a very important but difficult decision here and it did not go Nelson’s way. That’s never an easy situation to be in and one if I had my choice I would not have wanted to be in a position to make that against Nelson.”
The Star reported in May that BC Hockey was considering a proposal to move the struggling teams. Petrachenko attended an ice camp shortly after in Nelson, but said it was too early at the time to assess the quality of players trying out for the team.
What he did see was that the personnel and facilities in Nelson weren’t at fault for the floundering programs.
“It was not a good feeling going into Nelson and seeing the energy and the feeling that people had about the teams and things that had been done and knowing it wasn’t working to a level that was going to draw more players,” he said, while adding BC Hockey heard no proposals compelling enough to keep the teams in Nelson.
Petrachenko said the possibility of folding the Ice and Wild was still on the table until late July. But enough players signed up to warrant trying out the move to Trail for the upcoming season, which incorporates an academy structure into the organizations now run by Terry Jones and Dara Waterstreet, respectively.
Players aren’t paying more or less than they were in Nelson to play in Trail. Fees are the same across both leagues, with boys paying $7,087.30 for the season while the girls pay $6,521.05.
The move has not been an early success. Petrachenko said BC Hockey hasn’t seen a bump in available talent despite changing player movement rules in the off-season. Previously, if a player didn’t make their regional major midget team they couldn’t try out elsewhere in the province for other teams in the same league.
That’s been changed, and Petrachenko hopes it eventually boosts the quality of players coming to the Ice and Wild. Without the rule change, he said, the Kootenays likely wouldn’t have had teams this year.
He added BC Hockey doesn’t want to see a scenario in which the survival of the Ice and Wild relies on players coming to play from outside the Kootenays. He’s hoping the new program has time to draw in more local players.
“I can say that even with the move to Trail we haven’t seen a spike in [talent], and that’s concerning to us,” said Petrachenko. “However, we’re giving it a shot here and doing our best. We want these teams to survive. We want these teams to actually thrive.”