Just 18 months after the West Kelowna Warriors reached the pinnacle of Canadian junior A hockey, the BCHL franchise faced the prospects of leaving the Central Okanagan for good.
In January 2017, Mark Cheyne said significant financial losses every season since he assumed ownership of the club in 2009, forced him to consider his options, including moving the Warriors to another city.
With an RBC Cup championship run in 2016, Cheyne hoped the club’s financial fortunes would have finally taken a turn for the better.
But with community support for the team and attendance remaining stagnant, Cheyne said the writing was on the wall.
“We were never even close to breaking even once and after awhile it’s just no fun anymore,” Cheyne said. “The last few years, you look for that light at the end of the tunnel…but the light at the end never came.
“It was difficult,” said Cheyne, “a long, hard decision. It hurts me and I know some people will be hurt this. But there’s not much else we can put into it.”
With the threat of the Warriors leaving town, a group of loyal fans stepped up to rally behind the team.
In the end, a consortium of new investors came forward to help keep the club in West Kelowna for the 2017-18 season and, if all goes as planned, well beyond.
“I appreciate these guys stepping up,” said Cheyne. “This was the easiest and best of the options I had and I think it’s good for the community that it stays here,” he said. “It’s nice for me to still be a part of it and see how we can make things work down the road.”
“I’m happy we’re going to continue to have hockey in West Kelowna.”