The beleaguered Westshore Stingers junior B hockey team is sitting out this season, but could have a new owner next year.
The Stingers dropped out of the season last year after a number of players were let go after a mutiny, leaving the team without enough bodies. The team is now nothing more than a name, without players or a coach.
The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League president Greg Batters said the Westshore Stingers may be changing ownership.
John Butler-Smythe owned and operated the team for seven seasons in Sooke and on the West Shore, but a new buyer has shown interest in the team.
A deposit has been placed for the Stingers, Batters said, but at this point it hasn’t been sold.
The potential buyer is remaining anonymous until if and when the deal closes.
“Just because you have a junior B franchise doesn’t mean you’ll be successful,” Batters said. “Nobody is getting rich owning a junior B team.”
Butler-Smythe hasn’t returned phone calls seeking comment and confirmation on the sale of the team.
Each year players in the VIJHL pay between $800 to $1,200 to be on a team. The money covers the cost of ice time and transportation. Each player is guaranteed a minimum of two practices a week and 48 regular season games.
“Junior B provides kids who want to play at a high level with the opportunity to move up in the game,” said Batters, who is also a Western Hockey League scout for the Kamploops Blazers. “It’s for the love of the game.”
The VIJHL has received an application from a team in Nanaimo hoping to add its name to the league’s roster, but Batters said it’s still important to get a West Shore team back into the league.
“We have had a lot of good players come out of the West Shore,” said Batters, noting that many West Shore players skate for teams throughout the VIJHL.
“We don’t want just a team in the West Shore, we want a good franchise.”
Batters said a good franchise is created through good ownership, good leadership as well as everyone involved respecting the game and all the people involved in the game.
The Stingers franchise has struggled for years to secure victories in Sooke and then on the West Shore. The team’s last win was on Dec. 12, 2009 and prior to that was in December 2007 as the Sooke Stingers. It’s 2008-09 season had zero wins.
The team complained of not being able to secure enough ice time at the busy West Shore Parks and Recreation ice sheets, and Butler-Smythe sought out ice time at Naden and elsewhere.
A lack of practice and fitness led to an early spate of injuries last season. Frustration over losses led to a mutiny by a number of players who refused to take to the ice before a game in November 2010.
After 14 games with zero wins and not enough players, the Stingers effectively shut down.
Less than half the group of stranded Stingers returned to the midget level. Seventeen Stingers players went to other Jr. B teams via a dispersal draft on Dec. 10, 2010.