Morinville may be home to a new Junior A hockey team, pending Town approval

by Tristan Turner

Morinville hockey fans may have a new team to cheer for in the coming years if council decides to give the nod to a new junior A hockey team as part of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL).

This opportunity was brought to council’s attention by Derek Prue of the Western Provinces Hockey Association (WPHA), who shared a presentation with Council at their Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting about the new division and its vision for Morinville Junior A hockey.

Prue explained that the WSHL is a well-established league that has been operating in the US since 1993, and has grown to 23 teams across 14 states, and that the growing league is looking to open a new Canadian division (the WPHA) with Morinville as one of “the core founding teams.” This inaugural slate would begin towards the end of 2018 for the 18’-19’ hockey season and will comprise of 6-8 teams across BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

This team would be a serious commitment for players, with many WSHL players coming to play from all over the world, with over 300 European players. Playing the sport becomes a “full-time gig” for players, according to Prue, with many opportunities for advancement into professional leagues (like the NHL) and post-secondary sports teams. Prue noted that there are many advantages for a town to have a Junior A team in town, including millions in tourism, international recognition, and the opportunity for minor hockey teams to partner in training with the league.

Council had several questions and concerns for Prue, including Councillor Sarah Hall who was worried about how the new arena site could accommodate the team, including wondering if there would be private dressing room space available for the team, and the challenge of scheduling ice time.

Prue said that the league would be willing to work something out with town administration, including the possibility “[putting] the change room in a shipping container… as long as the team has their space.” Morinville’s Director of Corporate Operations, David Schaefer, said that there does exist a private change room in the current arena plans, and that administration would be able to work out an arrangement with the team for ice time that would still allow the other teams and schools access.

Mayor Turner asked Prue how committed the league was to have Morinville in their slate, and if there is a chance that Morinville may be passed up for a team even if council approves the plan. Prue responded saying, “We are 100 per cent committed to Morinville… we will be moving ahead with Morinville as one of our founding teams, with your approval.”

Councillor Richardson wondered how the team ownership and financials would look, with Prue candidly explaining that the league would take on any team expenses if they could not find a local owner, but they would prefer that someone from the community take on ownership of the team. The annual team budget is typically around $300,000 a year.

As the meeting was Committee of the Whole, no decision could be made that evening on the new team, though it will likely come forward for discussion at a future council meeting.

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  1. Where is this team going to play?
    Which one of the other two junior teams will suffer from this?
    Do we have the population / amenities to support a junior A program. (Hotels, restaurants, billets etc)
    Is there any room for youth hockey in this town anymore? Or is it going to be the norm to travel out to Legal to have your kids play minor hockey for Morinville.

    • Jonny… Why does it matter if you have to travel to Legal for ice times…ice is hard to come by, correct me if I’m wrong but our kids play minor hockey for Sturgeon, not just Morinville

    • Yep, no such thing as “Morinville” hockey or “Legal” hockey anymore. Have had to travel from Legal to Morinville for years to play Sturgeon hockey. Every town/city has to travel for ice times, it’s just the norm now a days.

  2. That being said, there is already not enough ice available for the number teams/user groups we have between Legal & Morinville. Sure would have been nice to have twin arenas built at the new Rec Centre, as I’ve stated from day 1 the ice would never sit empty.

  3. I also would like to know where they are going to find the ice times for this team…..?? As we don’t have enough for the teams we have now. Also would like to know where they will get all of the sponsorship from….? It is not cheap to run a junior A team and I’m pretty sure our junior B and senior team have a hard enough time finding sponsors!!

  4. Time for Morinville economic development to attract some hotel chains to town. An A team is great news.

  5. Thanks Greg you said it all finding sponsors is tougher and tougher we have no ice is also a problem. Its probably closer to tier 3 junior A its not the AJHL which is tier 2. Its probably a little above our Jungle B league which one person has called it. Johnny has been out of hockey a while Legal and Morinville are now called Sturgeon Hockey Club so we do have access to Legal Arena as well but Town of Legal sells a lot of ice to St Albert Minor hockey as well . I’m not really sure how Council can make a decision on a Hockey team ? Which will effect our two other teams in town. Spruce Grove has a really good junior A team always top of the league they DO NOT MAKE MONEY not sure how this league thinks they can make money with a budget of $300,000 plus . The town has talked to many Hotel chains over the years its a tough business. St Albert has only 2 Nice hotels plus a couple of motels with a population over 60,000 and 5 ice surfaces which still is not enough Ice . Why we are not building two rinks new complex right from start boggles my mind.

  6. This league is just a glorified junior B league. The teams in it play for the junior B national championship in the US. If the town wants to support Junior B hockey then support the team we already have. Bringing in this team would be the end of the Jets, a team that has been here for over 30 years.

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