About 100 fans, as well as many players, rallied outside Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna Tuesday evening to show support for the West Kelowna Warriors and call for local support to help keep team in the city.
With team owner Mark Cheyne due to announce Friday if the Warriors will be sold and moved out of town—possibly to Cranbrook or Quesnel—the rally was a last-ditch effort to call on local investors to come forward and joint the effort to save the team. An original plan to move the team to North Delta fell through, but the team could still be sold and moved.
Organizer Larry McLean said in addition to investors stepping up, more fans need to come forward and commit to being season-ticket holders.
“And they just have a few days to do it,” he told the crowd.
Pastor Don Richmond, the team’s chaplain, said the Warriors are something the unites the city, often known for being divided over issues. Following the rally, he appeared before Kelowna council urging it to reconsider its recent rejection of a proposal to place decals on city vehicles saying West Kelowna was home to the Warriors, the 2016 junior A hockey national champions.
Mayor Doug Findlater gave notice of motion that he will bring back the issue to council for a second vote at the next council meeting, if the team is to stay in the city.
Cheyne has said he is losing money with the team in West Kelowna, despite the national championship win last season. The team is attracting about 900 spectators to games at Royal LePage Place and an average of about 1,200 is needed to break even.
At the rally, fans expressed their support for the team saying the players do much more than just play hockey. They are part of the community.
The B.C. Hockey League team has been in the city for the last 10 years and many of the fans on hand at Tuesday’s rally said they have been there since the beginning.
Several said they cannot imagine losing the team.