The BC Hockey League was taken by surprise Friday with the announcement one of its strongest franchises is leaving for the Western Hockey League.
David White, owner of the BCHL's Wenatchee Wild announced he has purchased the WHL's Winnipeg Ice and will relocate the team to Wenatchee for the 2023-2024 season.
That spells the end of the Wild as a BCHL franchise.
It also means the league will have to rework the 2023-2024 schedule which it recently completed and try to find homes for the players committed to the Wild for the upcoming season.
"Right now the top priority is the players that were committed to play for the Wild. We will do whatever it takes for those athletes to find a home in the league...and some of those players may look for a home in the U.S.," said BCHL commissioner Steve Cocker.
He says the league will not entertain any form of dispersal draft saying it's league policy to let players pick where they want to go.
The schedule is the other priority.
"I don't think we'll have to start from scratch but more maintaining a majority of teams schedules and filling in three to four home games they'll be missing out with the Wild gone.
"I'm confident over the next few weeks we'll be able to sort that out and get everyone back up to 54 (games)."
Cocker says the league was caught a bit off guard by the news but says it does say something about what the league is doing that franchises are being sought after.
"What they have found moving to the WHL provides them with a long-term solution that will give them an instant rivalry with the U.S. Division so you can't fault them for making that business decision.
"Is it tough not having an organization like the Wild in our league...sure. They were one of our top organizations but we have a lot of positive momentum going right now with and we're excited to move forward."