Now that the Westshore Stingers have been laid to rest, a new junior-B hockey team will rise from the ashes next season.
Four West Shore businessmen have banded together to purchase the rights to a franchise in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, effectively replacing the Stingers.
Kory Gronnestad, Ken Carson, Dave Horner and Derrick Hamilton are in the process of buying the franchise rights and plan to keep the junior-B team on the West Shore. Operations for the Stingers have been suspended since early in 2011.
“The team was for sale and we thought it made sense,” said Gronnestad, president of Scansa Construction, based in Langford.
The club will be up and running for the 2012-13 season, but it don’t expect a stinging insect on player jerseys.
“We’ll definitely be changing the name,” Gronnestad said adding they haven’t selected a name yet. “The name could be tied to a business. We will be getting suggestions from the community too.”
The deal has been crafted through the Stingers’ owner and the league, said VIJHL president Greg Batters.
“We are thrilled,” Batters said. “We are just crossing our ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s.”
Starting a team from scratch is never easy, but the new owners will also have to deal the recent history of the team. The Stingers were put on a six-month leave from the league in December 2010 after a player revolt led to an inability to field enough players to take the ice.
The team started as the Sooke Stingers in 2005 and then played three years out of Bear Mountain Arena on the West Shore. During all six years the Stingers struggled to find enough ice time for training, and won very few games. Midway through the 2010-11 season the team had one win in 22 games.
“We didn’t buy the Westshore Stingers, we bought the rights to operate a West Shore junior-B team,” Gronnestad said. “This is a brand new team … a fresh start.”
The owner group is going to start recruiting players now and will be looking into coaches now in their year-long development to get a viable team on the ice. They want to base the team out of the new Westhills arena at City Centre Park.
“We wanted to come out of the gate strong,” Gronnestad said. “We will really start moving forward in the spring.”
Training camp will start in August of next year, like the rest of the league.
The new owners are keen to bring young hockey players to the community, and give minor hockey players the option to continue in junior-B. Even when the Westshore Stingers were operating, many West Shore players were skating on other VIJHL teams such as the Victoria Cougars.
“A lot of the best players in the league come from the West Shore whether they play for the Cougars or Peninsula Panthers,” Batters said. “If you run a good organization, you are going to attract good people and players. Quality at the top will filter down.”
“Kids want to stay and play hockey in front of their family and friends,” Gronnestad said. “We want to keep the local kids here to play.”
The four owners are all friends who live on the West Shore. Carson is the owner of Carson Mechanical, Horner owns Willow Leaf Holdings and Hamilton is co-partner on HHS Drilling and Blasting.
The four men played minor hockey as kids, some with the Juan de Fuca minor hockey association. They have been minor hockey coaches and their children have played or still play for JDF minor hockey.
“This is not something we are trying to make money on,” said Carson, president of the Juan de Fuca minor hockey.
“We are solid in the community. We are all successful and this (project) is community motivated.”