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Junior hockey coming to town

New league to start play in September Sylvie Paillard [email protected] The Brennan Park arena will soon be crowded with cheering fans supporting a hometown professional hockey team.

New league to start play in September

Sylvie Paillard

[email protected]

The Brennan Park arena will soon be crowded with cheering fans supporting a hometown professional hockey team.

The newly-reformed World Hockey Association (WHA) announced Wednesday (May 10) that one of four new Junior West Hockey League teams will call Squamish home.

"The enthusiasm has overwhelmed us," said WHA vice president of operations Gary Scott. "We're very excited about going to Squamish. I think once we get our whole program in operation there, we'll bring not only a hockey team but we'll bring lots of excitement. We will be working towards providing the product that the community will support and will want to support."

The Squamish Cougars will begin playing in September with home games most likely scheduled for Friday evenings. The team colours will be green and gold and will match not only the arena's colours, but Squamish minor league colours as well.

Although the ice rink is already heavily used, and the community has often expressed desire for a second rink, user groups have agreed to embrace the team, according Mayor Ian Sutherland.

"We've talked to all the user groups and they're all on side with it," said Sutherland. "I think they're all excited by the possibilities and what we're going to do now. This is one piece of the puzzle and now we continue on to try our best to get a second arena in the community."

Sutherland said the revenue generated from the new tenants will help in endeavoring to get a new arena. The team will be charged the same user rates as the rest of the community.

The WHA will soon start promoting the team within town and advertising for a booster club. Promotional nights will add to the excitement with events featuring former WHA and NHL hockey stars, such as WHA commissioner andHockey Hall of Fame member, Bobby Hull, according to a WHA news release.

The Junior West League will operate independently and not be associated with either Hockey Canada or USA Hockey. Eligible players will be presented with a superior developmental program in order to assist them in progressing towards Junior A, College, orMajor Junior hockey. Recruitment is opento players up to and including age 20, but will not have restrictions on minimum age.

"It comes down to the player deciding it plus the parents of that player," said Scott. "You don't want to have to hold them back if they can play and compete and develop."

Scott said the next step is to hire a coach, expected to be in place by mid-June, and to recruit players. And local youth may have an advantage the selection process.

"Definitely, it makes sense that if we can find some local talent that can play at that level and play for us there, great. It just makes smart sense to have some local kids on the team," said Scott. "We're looking at the long term situation. We plan to be there for years to come participating in the growth of the community."

The WHA will own and operate all of the inaugural season's teams with the first official franchise locations being New Westminster, Squamish, Bellingham, Wash. and Kent, Wash. Negotiations are currently progressing with two other cities.

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