Fans of the Westside Warriors have seen the last of the Quesnel Millionaires.
The BCHL approved the sale and relocation of the Millionaires from the Cariboo city to Chilliwack this week, changing the look of the BCHL Interior Conference and losing one of the league’s northern teams.
The Millionaires cited financial losses in folding its operations. Had the sale and relocation to Chilliwack not been approved, the Quesnel franchise would have folded.
“It’s too bad for Quesnel,” said Warriors’ owner Mark Cheyne.
“The guys that have run it for quite a few years threw a lot of money in there and there was a lot of volunteer time and effort.
“It wasn’t for a lack of effort but without a new facility it wasn’t going to work.
“Their building wasn’t good enough.”
Plans for a new building in Quesnel are on the backburner and the Millionaires couldn’t wait.
The move will alter the look of the Interior conference. The BCHL announced that Chilliwack will play in the Interior Conference this coming season as well as in 2012-13 before the league will reorganize. That keeps the Interior and the Coastal Conference with eight teams apiece.
Quesnel’s loss is Chilliwack’s gain as Chilliwack will be back in the BCHL after the franchise moved to Langley following the 2005-06 season.
That was to make room for the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins, who have now vacated Chilliwack in favour of Victoria.
Chilliwack owners the Chiefs Development Group (CDG) have sold the Langley franchise but retained the Chiefs nickname.
As well longtime Chiefs coach and general manager Harvey Smyl has agreed to an ownership position with CDG and appears headed back to Chilliwack.
“Chilliwack was always a great market for the league,” said Cheyne.
“Everybody seems pretty happy. The atmosphere there was as good as anywhere in the league.”
Cheyne also commented on several rule changes the BCHL instituted this off season.
Next year the BCHL will start its regular season about three weeks later than what was traditional with a Sept. 24 start.
That removes most of the late summer dates in September where crowds were down.
“You would have your opening night and it’s a great crowd and then the rest of September would be brutal,” he said.
Other changes include only four of eight teams making the playoffs and the reduction of the roster from 23 to 21 players.
As for the Warriors, Cheyne says the team had an excellent year in the community, getting players out and active with local schools and businesses.
Attendance averaged between 900 and 1,250.
Cheyne says the goal is to get closer to 1,250 as an average with the hopes of selling out the 1,500 seat Royal LePage Place on a regular basis.