Junior ‘A’ hockey project

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Word from someone involved in the attempt to secure a Junior ‘A’ hockey franchise for Slave Lake is that it can still happen, but not without a local investor (or investors) to take ownership.

That’s a change from what Mr. Prue of the Western Provinces Hockey Association (WPHA) was saying a few months ago, but it has evolved since then we’re told. Local ownership has developed in four other communities – Meadow Lake, Cold Lake, Edson and Hinton – and the league has decided that’s what it will take to make it happen in Slave Lake. As of last week, there were several local people interested from an organizational perspective – but not where investing money is concerned. Our contact says it doesn’t have to be one person or company – it could be an ownership group. And the deadline for it happening is next month.

Further, the league has designated an interim general manager for the Slave Lake team, should it get off the ground. His name is Bryan Brown. Brown sounded optimistic in a phone interview last Friday.

“It’s ready to go,” he said. “It’s just a matter of pulling the trigger.”

The ‘trigger’ involves finding some local investors, plus an individual to represent them as ‘owner.’ Brown met with a few interested people from Slave Lake on June 21 and says he was encouraged by what he heard.

“What it really comes down to is a face over there to run the organization,” he said. “It’s not a huge commitment. It’s pretty much just a start-up fee.”

Brown himself is a former Junior hockey player and is a coach in Vegreville. He said he’s got a former NHL player who has been coaching in Saskatchewan who is interested in becoming the GM/coach of the Slave Lake team, should this last hurdle be overcome. He’s also got players lined up and ready to play.

“We will be shooting for 14 imports and 12 from Canada and the U.S.”

Meanwhile, there’s a commitment from three teams in the Western States Hockey League (a sister organization to the WPHA) to make a swing through western Canada to play the teams in the new WPHA. Slave Lake could be one of those, if the initial investors are recruited in time.

Brown says a group from Maskwacis is also making a bid for membership in the new Junior ‘A’ league.

“They’re in the same spot as Slave Lake now,” he says.

If they and Slave Lake make the cut, the league will be six teams in its inaugural season.

“There’s a seventh one we haven’t announced yet,” Brown adds.

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