VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s maligned junior hockey teams have asked the provincial government for a near $10-million bailout in a pitch to save their seasons.
Interim BC Liberal Leader Shirley Bond has long been a vocal supporter of junior hockey and in particular her local Prince George clubs.
She’s calling on the NDP to put its money where its mouth is.
“Simple question, hopefully a very simple answer: Will the premier provide B.C.’s local hockey teams with the $9.5 million in funding they need to survive the hockey season?” Bond asked on Wednesday. “They are asking for $9.5 million so that WHL teams and BC Hockey League teams, like the premier’s own Victoria Grizzlies and my Prince George Spruce Kings, can survive.”
Bond’s beloved Spruce Kings are a community-owned, non-profit team, as are their BCHL rivals in Merritt and Powell River. But other privately held clubs have deeper pockets.
The WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, for instance, are part of Tom Gaglardi’s Northland Properties group, which operate Sandman Hotels, restaurants, and two ski resorts, including Grouse Mountain. Gaglardi also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
She notes it’s not just hockey teams that are in trouble.
“From local football teams like the Langley Rams to baseball teams like the Victoria HarbourCats, community sports teams across the province are struggling to survive without funding from this government,” Bond said.
Premier John Horgan has yet to commit any funding. He says a return-to-play plan has already been approved for the WHL and he’s in contact with the BCHL.
“We understand the issue, we’ve been working on it for a number of months and I regrettably have to say stay tuned at this point,” Horgan said.
The province wouldn’t be the first to write a big cheque since the COVID-19 pandemic forced leagues like the WHL off the ice.
Quebec committed $12 million to its major junior teams last October, while the Saskatchewan government said it would write a $ 4-million cheque in January. Alberta has partnered with leagues in that province on a 50-50 program that will be split among 21 teams.
-With files from Marcella Bernardo