The Kamloops Storm, 100 Mile House Wranglers and Kelowna Chiefs will descend on Quesnel this weekend for the final regular-season Kootenay International Junior Hockey League games taking place at West Fraser Centre.
Friday night will see the Storm face the Wranglers, and Kamloops Storm assistant general manager Matt Kolle says it’s going to be an exciting game.
“100 Mile are one of the Storm’s main adversaries, so I think it’s going to be a rock ’em, sock ’em, battle-it-out game.”
The games this weekend at West Fraser Centre offer a chance to see some of Quesnel’s rising stars on the ice in their hometown, including Yewta Plamondon, Chris Thon and Brett Mero, who play for Kamloops; Jacque Gilkerson, Travis Gook and Nolan Parr, who play for 100 Mile House; and Myles Mattila, Brody Dale and Reign Turley, who play for Kelowna.
Quesnel Minor Hockey players DJ Sauve, Michael Greenwood and Justin Salmons are also affiliated players (AP) with the Kamloops Storm and may see ice time this weekend.
Mental health awareness
On Saturday the Storm will play the Kelowna Chiefs, including former Quesnel player Mattila, who joined the Okanagan team this year. Mattila is as well known for his hockey skills as he is for his advocacy for mental health.
“In organizing the teams coming to Quesnel, one of the reasons we pursued Kelowna is that we know Myles is there. Being the person he is and what he represents, we thought it would be a great addition and showcase Myles playing in his home community,” comments Kolle.
During the game on Saturday, Mattila has organized a toonie raffle to raise awareness for mental health. Prizes included a signed Guy Lafleur jersey, donated by Universal DKI Restorations, and a signed Dan Hamhuis jersey, donated by Tom Gaglardi, owner of the Dallas Stars.
Future of junior hockey in Quesnel
This weekend marks the final few games for the Storm in Quesnel, but Matt Kolle and his organization Parallel Sports Group are still working towards bringing in a team.
The group’s second bid to the league to expand the league north was voted down in January.
READ MORE: Quesnel’s KIJHL expansion bid shut down again
Parallel Sports Group is now looking at the possibility of moving an existing KIJHL team to Quesnel.
“The reason to move a team would be if it is in financial strain,” says Kolle.
Kolle, who took on an unpaid position as assistant manager of the Kamloops Storm this year to learn about the league and running a franchise, says the Storm’s management team has been reviewing the team’s finances over the past few weeks.
“In the next few weeks, we’ll know where Kamloops’ team stands. And [Parallel Sports Group] has also been having conversations with other [KIJHL] teams in financial strain that might be better off in Quesnel,” he says.
“It has always been something we would consider, but we wanted to see how the expansion bid would play out first.”
There are other options available as well: an American league, the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), recently announced its expansion into Canada. It is establishing six teams in the Western provinces, the locations of which will be announced tomorrow (Feb. 8) at a press conference in Cold Lake, Alberta.
Kolle says he is aware of the WSHL’s expansion.
“We are having ongoing talks with the WSHL; we are investigating the potential for a Northern B.C./Alberta division to their league,” he comments.
“If that league gains momentum and it makes sense for us to be sustainable in that league, we would look to sign on.
“At the end of the day, we want to get a team into Quesnel. People in the seats this weekend is part of our argument, and helps build our case,” says Kolle.