Squamish Wolf Pack heads for the exit

PIJHL team announces move to North Vancouver

The Squamish Wolf Pack is no more.

After three consecutive losing seasons and zero playoff appearances, the Pacific International Junior Hockey League (PIJHL) team announced on Tuesday (April 5) that the club will play in North Vancouver for the 2011-'12 season.

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"It was a really difficult decision for me personally," said Matt Samson, the team's head coach and general manager. "When we brought a team here I was really excited about the potential, but it just hasn't worked out."

Samson pointed to a number of contributing factors that led to the move.

"We never got the game day we wanted from the league [Friday] because of travel issues," he said. "We also had problems with recruitment, corporate support and just fan support in general. I wouldn't blame the fans because you open the paper and we're always last in the league, but just a lot of things didn't work out and it's unfortunate."

Recruitment has been a big issue for the team and having the most northern team in the league didn't help matters, Samson said.

"We found that a lot of the players from the city didn't necessarily want to come here and play," he said. "And when you combine that with a lack of fan support, it's really an uphill battle. If we were still struggling on the ice but with 300 fans it would be a different story. We had both strikes against us and it just wasn't getting better."

Samson said that the Brennan Park Arena wasn't exactly the ideal venue for Junior B hockey.

"We had a lot of complaints from other teams about the dressing rooms," he said, "which is why we spent a lot of money and built our own dressing room outside the building."

Samson noted the stark difference between Squamish and North Vancouver as far as the quality of young hockey players available.

"We sent out a press release yesterday letting people know about our training camps and we got six or seven emails within 10 minutes of it being posted," he said. "We did the same thing in Squamish and didn't have one single local kid try out for us last summer."

Samson confirmed that the team will keep the Wolf Pack name and retain the colours and jerseys that the franchise has used throughout its existence. The team will play its home games at the Harry Jerome Recreation Centre.

Despite his team leaving town, Samson said he will continue to live in Squamish and expressed interest in helping to develop the minor hockey program in town.

"In December I started getting involved with Atom and Pee Wee kids locally," he said. "There's going to be some extra ice now with us leaving and I'd like to help out somehow. The interest is there at that age and I think we could get something going with these kids. Maybe we can build up a stronger base and help strengthen minor hockey in Squamish."

He also wanted to thank the sponsors, volunteers and fans that helped make the Wolf Pack's three-year run memorable.

"I'd definitely like to thank our corporate sponsors who were there for all three years," he said. "They've been a huge help for us. We had some great volunteers and our fans were good, when they were there. I've gotten to know some of them this year and it's tough to move the team, but it's something we had to do."

The Squamish Wolf Pack compiled a record of 36 wins, 92 losses and 14 overtime losses over its three seasons in the PIJHL. This past season the team put together the second-worst record in PIJHL history, winning only six times in 46 games.

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