A presentation from the Greater Metro Hockey League (GMHL) was given to council on Monday (March 15th) discussing the possibility of a Junior ‘A’ hockey team coming to Kitimat.
The GMHL is a non-sanctioned hockey league that has no influence from Hockey Canada’s rules and regulations given to leagues that operate in Canada.
The league is mostly Ontario-based but is looking to expand into B.C.
They have proposed a four-team division of Northern B.C. teams to run alongside their four Alberta teams for the 2021 season.
“We’re looking at expanding to the northern half of the provinces as we feel the southern half are disproportionately represented,” said Derek Prue, GMHL’s west division expansion director.
As Kitimat has already been approved for a Jr. A hockey team, Prue emphasized the positive impact the GMHL has on its players by giving them the ability to commit to a full-time team.
“We feel what we bring to the community is pretty significant as we have excellent relationships with the minor hockey associations we work with,” Prue said.
With the proposal suggesting a new team would play a total of 21 home games and 21 away games, Councillor Terry Marleau highlighted his worries regarding the time and money commitment each player would face.
“We understand the cost and time involved in travelling to places [outside of Kitimat] is a significant amount of time commitment, let alone money, ” said Marleau. “I know our senior team would only have 16 games […] and even that was an extremely costly venture.”
Prue responded attempting to reassure him that the league’s potential to venture out to northern B.C. is still within budget.
“Our business model allows us to come to smaller communities that wouldn’t get the BCHL or AJHL level,” said Prue. “We are tuition-based, we charge our players and that allows us the freedom to expand in the manner we are.”
Other communities in the northwest region such as Quesnel have turned down the offer, hoping to attract the attention of a sanctioned junior team in time.
Currently made up of 30 teams nationally, the GMHL is a 15-year old Jr. A Hockey League that has players from all around the world ranging from ages 16-21. Players come to this league to improve their hockey, academic, and overall life skills.
The league aspires to bring in three to four new teams for a total of seven to eight teams in the western division.
A proposed motion was made that by the city council stating they will coordinate with staff and take a further look at the request.