BCHL eyes Campbell River

The future of the Nanaimo Clippers junior A hockey club is contingent on the outcome of an upcoming referendum on a sports and events centre on the Harbour City’s waterfront.

But that future could include Campbell River.

Our city’s name is being bandied about as a possible location for Nanaimo’s BCHL franchise which may be on the move if Nanaimo is able to attract a major junior franchise.

At the B.C. Hockey League’s governors’ meeting last week, the Clippers filled in other teams about their situation.

“We just made the league aware that there’s potential for a new event centre and that the rumour is that if the event centre comes in, that a WHL team will closely follow, if not immediately,” said David LeNeveu, Clippers president. “Now, we’re not party to any of those discussions, so we can’t say one way or the other. We’re just making the [BCHL] aware that this could be what was happening and to prepare, in case that did happen.”

He said the idea of major junior and junior A hockey trying to coexist in Nanaimo would be a detriment to the success of both clubs.

“Could we do it? Yeah. Will we do it? I don’t know. We’ve got to keep every option available on the table, but it’s definitely not the most likely case scenario,” LeNeveu said.

Another possibility is moving the team. BCHL commissioner John Grisdale said Campbell River is a location that would have to be considered.

“There has to be an agreement both ways for the ownership in Nanaimo to relocate there and the league to approve it … and we can’t do anything there that’s not fair to the junior B group (Campbell River Storm),” Grisdale said.

He said the BCHL’s franchise committee has not had any discussions about relocating the Clippers and said there’s nothing the league can do on that front until Nanaimo’s referendum.

Nothing has been confirmed yet as far as a major junior hockey team being relocated to the Harbour City, though the Nanaimo Event Centre Phase 1 report noted that it was conducted with the understanding “that there may be an opportunity to attract a Western Hockey League Team to Nanaimo and that these opportunities do not happen often.”

The Kootenay Ice, based in Cranbrook, is the team that could be on the move.