Village of Burns Lake council is moving forward with a plan to bring a new Junior A hockey team to town for the 2022-2023 season.
During a council meeting on Jan. 18, a motion was passed to begin negotiating a contract with the Greater Metro Hockey League West to place a team in Burns Lake. The expansion would see a full team of young men ages 16-21 move to Burns Lake. Those who are still in high school would attend Lakes District Secondary School.
The league has been operating for over 15 years in Ontario, and has expanded to Western Canada in the last three years with teams in Alberta and B.C.. For next season they have confirmed three teams for B.C. [Mackenzie, Chetwynd, & Kitimat]. They are looking to place more teams in B.C., and are interested in having a team in Burns Lake.
The reason why the league is able to expand to smaller communities that wouldn’t be able to afford a BCHL level team, is that the business model is tuition based. This means the league charges its players to play.
Should the team come, there would be 21 home games scheduled for the 2022-2023 season, primarily on Friday and Saturday nights. Players would be drawn from a league pool and move to Burns Lake to play.
Weekly practices would take place four times a week during non-peak hours.
“I’ve talked to the recreation director in Mackenzie, they just got a team this year as their first season and they’ve had a very positive experience from a municipal standpoint. It’s bringing in extra revenue while also giving the locals something to do at night,” said Village of Burns Lake Director of Recreation Services Lewis Jones during the meeting.
According to Jones, though the level of play at Junior A is higher then that of the Burns Lake Minor Hockey Association, there will be a chance for local players to make the team via an open tryout.
One question that came up during the council meeting was housing for players and coaches, as one councillor brought up the concern about the lack of available housing in town. According to Lewis, the league would be in charge of finding housing for any coaches that have to move to town, and that responsibility wouldn’t fall on the village.
Players on the team would have to stay with billet households.
“This is a very exciting opportunity. It isn’t just a form of entertainment, it would be an economic benefit for our community as well and an attractant for people to want to come here. I think there’s so many reasons why this could be a great thing,” said Mayor Dolores Funk to council.
The added entertainment value could make Burns Lake a more attractive place to live for those moving here for work. On top of that, other teams and coaches would be consistently travelling through town, staying at hotels and eating at local restaurants, which would have an positive economic impact.
The league is hoping for a signed agreement with the village by February or March in order to move forward with placement of the team.
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