Hockey teams in limbo

Let’s see now. The Coyotes are heading back to Winnipeg from Phoenix and the Atlanta Thrashers are packing up for Quebec City.

Oh, and the Chilliwack Bruins, who were sold this week, are loading up a few trucks and taking a ferry this afternoon to Victoria, where the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings are reportedly done.

And the Quesnel Millionaires are penniless and for sale with any prospective buyer doubtful.

It’s going to be a crazy few weeks here as we wait for the lawyers, accountants and bankers to figure out just where all these teams are best suited.

Let’s start in the BCHL. The Millionaires, who went private two years ago, with the husband-and-wife team of Gary and Kit Collins and Bob Sales the driving force, are out of cash. Former Vernon Laker goalie Mirko Pellizzari, a dentist, is a minority owner.

Sales, the Mills’ president, said this week the teams paid the referees and security one game night, and deposited $37 into general revenue. Ouch!

“I give them credit for trying, but they’re in a tough situation,” said Vipers’ owner Duncan Wray, a retired oral surgeon. “They have put a lot of money into it and they’re fed up. I know what that feels like, having put lots of money into this team (in early years at Civic Arena).”

Wray says the league has given the Millionaires a drop-dead date of April 20. They either commit to next season or fold. A dispersal draft of the players would likely be held via conference call.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to pick the team up unless they have really, really deep pockets and are a huge hockey fan,” said Wray.

The Mills made the playoffs this season and averaged 638 fans a game, second-worst in the 16-team BCHL ahead of the Merritt Centennials, who listed a 571 fans a game total. The Vipers, at an average of 1,880, lead the BCHL.

Wray said the corporate support in Quesnel was good, but without a bigger fan base, the Mills could not pay the bills. And with the proposed new arena nowhere in sight, the Mills are hardly going to attract a viable new owner.

In Langley, Roy and John Henderson are set to take over the BCHL’s Langley Chiefs after buying them from Moray Keith, Jim Bond and Harvey Smyl. The team will be known as the Rivermen.

Roy Henderson is the long-time operator of Global Sports Scouting Services Inc., which runs hockey clinics for Pee Wee, Bantam, Midget and Junior hockey players to showcase their talents for prospective coaches and scouts. John Henderson is an accountant.

Roy Henderson delivered an interesting quote to Langley Times sports editor Gary Ahuja last week, saying the team would be changing its name.

“The Chiefs are synonymous with Chilliwack. The Chiefs belong in Chilliwack,” he said. “To be honest, the Langley fans detested the Chiefs for many years. I remember (when my son played for Chilliwack) I used to have to go into that building and listen to it.”

If Keith, who owns the arena in Chilliwack, fails in his bid to bring major junior hockey back to the Fraser Valley city, perhaps he scoops up the Millionaires and shifts them to Chilliwack.

Meanwhile, American Hockey League president Dave Andrews, who once coached the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, has stated that his league has a contingency plan involving the Manitoba Moose should the Phoenix Coyotes return to Winnipeg.

Andrew has yet to offer much in the way of specifics, but all indications are that the plan involves the relocation of the Moose, who I guess could play in either Victoria or Chilliwack.

That way, the Canucks and Flames, whose AHL affiliate is the Abbotsford Heat, can simply have players drive their own cars to Rogers Arena when called up on an emergency basis.

NOTES AND QUOTES: Shortly after the NHL regular season ended last Sunday night, a headline appeared on the Minnesota Wild website. It read, “By the way Chicago… You’re Welcome.”…From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Rich Sutter was among the parents offering consolation after the highly-favoured Blades were swept by the Kootenay Ice. He comforted son Lukas – a rookie forward with the Blades, and his teammates. “There’s a real learning curve for a lot of players in junior hockey,” said Sutter. “It’s a great stepping stone to a lot of things in life other than hockey. You find out more about yourself and you develop as a person. Winning is important, but this is why (the WHL is a) development league. A lot of people can be successful in life and do a lot of things but hockey is such an education. It’s a degree in itself.”…Kelowna Rockets’ play-by-play man Regan Bartel reports on his blog there is actually a donut with a piece of bacon attached available at Voodoo Doughnut Shop in Portland. Wonder what the calorie count is for that beauty?

Vernon Morning Star

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