Wenatchee Wild about the BCHL

Fans in Wenatchee are going Wild about joining the B.C. Hockey League.

Four years after trying to join the B.C. Hockey League, the Wenatchee Wild are in for the 2015-16 season.

The Wild were officially introduced Monday as the league’s 17th franchise at a media conference held in the central Washington city. The expansion fees are believed to be $1.2 million, meaning each established club will receive $75,000.

“The BCHL is gaining a strong franchise in the Wenatchee Wild and we value the passion and professionalism they bring to our league,” said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale.

“The Wild will quickly develop rivalries with our existing franchises and I believe they will be a big draw in opposing buildings.”

Wenatchee is situated in north-central Washington and is the largest city and county seat of Chelan County. The population within the city limits in 2010 was 31,925.

Duncan Wray, who is the BCHL chairman of the board, accompanied Grisdale to Wenatchee.

“They are so keen and so happy to be in the BCHL,” said Wray, who also heads the franchise committee. “I did a head count at the rink and there were at least 160 people there, including about 10, 12 members of the press. I was blown away by the interest.”

“They had a luncheon outside with pulled pork sandwiches and we answered questions for about two and a half hours. The biggest concern from the fans was, ‘Whaddya mean there’s no fighting?’ When we told them you were ejected for one fight, they weren’t too happy about that either.”

The BCHL voted several months ago to accept Wenatchee, but had to wait for final approval from parent hockey bodies like Hockey Canada.

The Wild had been a member the North American Hockey League (NAHL) since the 2008-09 season. They have had a winning record in each of their seven seasons of existence and this past season, they had six players on their roster committed to NCAA Div. I programs.

Playing out of the gorgeous 4,300-seat Town Toyota Center, complete with luxury boxes, the team averaged about 3,000 fans with the average adult ticket $20.

Head coach/GM Bliss Littler, a native of Minot, N.D., is entering his 22nd year as a Junior hockey coach, and is the winningest coach in USA Hockey history.

“We could not be more excited or humbled to be joining the BCHL,” said Littler. “Knowing the history and reputation of the league, be it sending players to play NCAA Division I hockey, NHL draft picks or the professionalism of the member teams and league have, we look forward to being a good league member on and off the ice.”

As a U.S.-based club, the Wild will be allowed to roster a maximum of four Canadian players. They had two Canadians last year when they finished 14th in the 24-team NAHL.

“Bliss is well-known in hockey circles and is a really nice guy,” said Wray. “He has coached in the USHL and was coach of Team USA in the World Hockey Challenge and all our coaches know him and like him.”

David White, owner of a fruit distribution company in Fresno, is the Wild owner.

He moved the team to Wenatchee in 2013 after running the Fresno Monsters of the NAHL.

Wray was involved in Wenatchee’s failed attempt to join the BCHL in 2012 under different ownership.

The Wild become the first U.S.-based franchise in the BCHL since the Bellingham Ice Hawks, who operated from 1990 to 1995.

“They will play in the Mainland Division for this year and then we will evaluate things next year,” said Wray “It was actually Prince George’s choice to stay in the Mainland.”

Geographically, the closest BCHL cities to Wenatchee are Surrey, Langley, Coquitlam and Chilliwack — all about four-hour drives (depending on border waits).

Prince George is a 12-hour drive from Wenatchee. While that may seem like a grind, it’s actually a short hop compared to some of the Wild’s road trips in the NAHL, where the Wild competed in the South Division with six teams in Texas. Their closest divisional rival was 2,750 kilometres away in Topeka, Kan.

The BCHL begin their three-day annual general meetings Thursday in Victoria.



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

Youth from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and the Kootenays were able to dig into two evenings of online learning and connection through United Way Southern Interior B.C.’s <CODE>anagan program. (Submitted)<code> </code>
CODEanagan gives youth a chance to learn about technology

The youth, aged 12 to 21, built their own WordPress sites and developed blogging ideas

One person was extricated from a vehicle that rolled off Highway 97 Feb. 25, 2021, near Clerke Road in Coldstream around 2 p.m. (Roger Knox - Vernon Morning Star)
UPDATE: Highway 97 cleared near Vernon following rollover that trapped occupant

Single-vehicle incident on highway stretch; vehicle rolled onto its roof

SilverStar Mountain Resort near Vernon has teamed up with the Community Foundation of North Okanagan to help feed local families who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (SilverStar photo)
Vernon resort fills gap for residents impacted by COVID-19

SilverStar Mountain Resort and Community Foundation North Okanagan create program to feed families

Const. Kyle Camulush is the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP’s new liaison officer for the Okanagan Indian Band. (RCMP photo)
New liaison officer for Okanagan Indian Band

Const. Kyle Camalush joins Vernon North Okanagan RCMP from Barriere detachment

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Larch Place is the first building to be built in the BC Housing, Canadian Mental Health Association housing project at the corner of Third Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW. This view is from the Shuswap Street side where it sits behind the Graystone East building. (File photo)
Opening of doors at new housing development in Salmon Arm welcomed

BC Housing announces opening of 32 rental units, with 35 more expected in summer 2021

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, before she knew she would change literature. Photo Wikipedia
And Then There Were None

What book knocked your booties off when you were young?

A webinar on dealing with dementia will be held Wednesday, March 10, 2021 (Submitted)
Webinar on dementia scheduled for March 10

Okanagan residents invited to event on legal issues surrounding dementia

The BC SPCA is offering many chances for school-aged kids to learn about animal welfare and other animal topics. Pictured here is Keith, a three-month-old kitten seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
From pets to wildlife, BC SPCA offers animal education programs geared to youth

BC SPCA offering virtual spring break camps, workshops and school presentations

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

Most Read