Owner and president of the West Kelowna Warriors, Kim Dobranski has written an open letter pleading with West Kelowna residents to attend more games.
“For the last four months, the Warriors organization has worked hard to reach out and engage the community to try and revitalize the organization. When the team moved here in 2006 there were over 1,000 season tickets sold. It has declined steadily year after year reaching a low point of around 240 last season and just over 200 this season,” states Dobranski in the letter.
In the new year, he hopes to resuscitate attendance and excitement for the BCHL team. He says over the last 22 years, the national championship was won nine times by BCHL teams, six of those wins by Interior division teams competing with 132 other teams from across the country. The Fred Page Cup, emblematic of the BCHL championship, was won by an Interior division team the last four years in a row, and eight times in the last 10 years.
“Putting aside the high caliber of hockey, the biggest benefit is the support these teams provide to the communities. The economic benefit of the Warriors to West Kelowna is estimated to be close to $7 million dollars annually. A strong organization like the Warriors provides many other benefits,” writes Dobranski.
”We are one of the last remaining assets communities have where you can come together and unite around something in common. Regardless of your economic, social status, gender, political leanings or race, when your team scores, wins or loses, we all share in that, together as one. When a fan sees someone wearing the Warriors’ logo, you immediately become connected.”
The team this season has supported the Girl Guides, Boys and Girls Club, Canucks Autism Network, Westside Daze, West Kelowna Minor Hockey, Cops for Kids, Chief Tomat Elementary, Boucherie Figure Skating Club, Westside Ringette, Helen Gorman PAC, Westside food bank, Mar Jok PAC, Air Cadets, Mammas for Mammas, Canadian Cancer Society by fundraising and raising awareness for the organizations.
In 2017, the Warriors were slated to move to North Delta after concluding what would have been their last season in West Kelowna if not for an outcry from fans who rallied to keep the team.
The potential sale by then owner Mark Cheyne was pulled off the table after the Warriors found local investors to keep junior A hockey alive in West Kelowna.
Soon after, Dobranski and a minority silent partner began overseeing team operations ahead of the 2018/2019 season.
“The impact the Warriors have on minor hockey cannot be understated,” writes Dobranski. “I recently visited Delta, which is looking for a junior A team, and their minor hockey is struggling to the point of nearly folding and Delta has a population of about 100,000.
He said Quesnel, which lost its junior A team in 2011, saw a steady decline in minor hockey and is now struggling to enrol new kids in hockey.
“The overall community impact was so severe Quesnel funded a brand new $22 million building just to try and attract a team back, and so far, unsuccessfully. Sadly, communities don’t realize what they have until it’s gone.”
The Warriors will hit the ice again against the Vernon Vipers in Vernon at Kal Tire Place before returning to the Royal LePage Place to take on the Trail Smoke Eaters Jan. 5. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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