Monday, June 1, 2015

Meet the Wild! BCHL Expands to Include Wenatchee as 17th League Franchise:

The BC Hockey League is bringing in another American based team, making official today the addition of the Wenatchee Wild for the 2015-16 season.

The Wild are leaving the Junior A Tier II North American Hockey League, where it played from 2008-15. Wenatchee hasn't had any alumni play in the NHL, but a number of former players have gone on to play NCAA hockey along with minor pro in the US and Europe. The BCHL didn't announce which division the Wild will join in 2015-16, but I've received confirmation it will play in the Mainland Division for this season and the situation will be reviewed prior to the 2016-17 season.

“We could not be more excited or humbled to be joining the BCHL,” said Wild GM and Head Coach Bliss Littler, a veteran of 22 seasons behind the bench in junior hockey. “Knowing the history and reputation of the league, be it sending players to play NCAA Division I hockey, NHL draft picks or the professionalism of the member teams and league have, we look forward to being a good league member on and off the ice.”

Town Toyota Centre (Home of the Wenatchee Wild)
Team Owner and Governor David White and shootthepuck, inc. moved the Fresno Monsters to Wenatchee on May 31, 2013 after the previous Wild franchise was relocated to Hidalgo, Texas two weeks prior by former owner Bill Stewart. The  Town Toyota Centre board of directors signed a five year lease agreement with White in 2013. On-and-off, Wenatchee has been trying to gain acceptance into the BCHL since 2006, when ground broke on the Town Toyota Center.

The only other teams from the States in the BCHL was the Bellingham Blazers (1972-80) and the Bellingham Ice Hawks (1990-95).

“The BCHL is gaining a strong franchise in the Wenatchee Wild and we value the passion and professionalism they bring to our league,” said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale in a release. “The Wild will quickly develop rivalries with our existing franchises and I believe they will be a big draw in opposing buildings.”

The population of Wenatchee is 113,438, which makes it the fourth largest market in the league behind Surrey (468,251), Victoria (344,630) and Coquitlam (126,840). The Wild have averaged 3028 fans per game over the last seven seasons, which is more than any BCHL team did in 2014-15.

The Wild have played in the NAHL since 2008, advancing to the league's Robertson Cup Final twice. Wenatchee also finished first in its division in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2012-13.

In an interview with Nanaimo play-by-play man Dan Marshall, BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale clarifies the import rules for Wenatchee. The Wild are allowed to have up to four Canadian players and up to four players from outside its branch, or catchment area. Players not considered imports for Wenatchee are those from Washington State, California, Colorado, and Missouri. Players from all other 46 states will be considered imports. Under BCHL rules, European players aren't allowed.

Based on last season's Wild roster with eligible returnees for 2015-16, the breakdown looks like this:

Washington, California, Colorado, Missouri: 6
Rest of USA: 3
Canada: 2
International: 1

With those types of numbers, Wenatchee won't need to make any significant roster adjustments to become compliant with the rules set forth by the BCHL.

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