Changes are already emerging for the new KIJHL season with one team looking to move and a winning coach calling it quits.
On Sunday, the current ownership group of the Revelstoke Grizzlies sent notification to the KIJHL’s 20 governors of their intent to sell the team to a group from 100 Mile House, the Revelstoke Times Review reported.
The same day, the Fernie Free Press reported that Will Verner resigned as coach and manager of the Eddie Mountain Division champion Fernie Ghostriders.
A May 6 meeting of the KIJHL board of governors will determine if Revelstoke will have Junior B hockey next season.
The 100 Mile House Wranglers already have their own website, logo and announced a spring camp from April 13–15. Rumours that the two parties were in discussion have been circulating over the past months.
KIJHL president Bill Ohlhausen confirmed the news of the notification to move in an interview Monday.
“This is the first time that the governors have heard about this,” Ohlhausen told a Times-Review reporter. “They will have to decide.”
According to team owner Michael Roberts, the corporate sponsorship has gone down dramatically over the last three years coupled with a drop in attendance to the point where it’s just not financially viable to keep operating.
“The expenses to run the team are rising and we just don’t have the full support,” he said.
Revelstoke Grizzlies Society president Tammy Kaler said the news was crushing.
“I would be devastated if it’s moving,” she said.
The Revelstoke Grizzlies first came to Revelstoke in 1991 and were sold to a private ownership group in 2006. The Grizzlies Society has operated in parallel to the ownership group.
Kaler argues that a condition of the sale in 2006 included a clause that the team must remain in Revelstoke for 10 years – until 2016 – unless the society approved of the move.
However, Roberts says the owners have a $25,000 buy-out clause that will go to the society if a sale goes through.
“Out of the proceeds from the sale there’s a cheque for them,” he said. “I have a debt to the community I have to repay and this is the only way I can see to repay it.”
He said no local interests had come forward to purchase the team but the society held its AGM last night to discuss the matter.
“The society couldn’t run it before and I don’t know what answers they’re going to have,” he said.
“For five years in a row Will (Verner) has recruited the best team in the Eddie Mountain Division,” Fernie president Phil Iddon told the Free Press.
“Will has left us with a great foundation looking ahead, and has developed several younger players this past season.”
Verner’s success is impressive, but, in addition to the titles, he says he will cherish the fond memories of the community and its fans and players most.