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Junior A level hockey league eyes Houston

Wants to sign deal to use Claude Parish Memorial Arena

Houston might be home to a Junior A-level hockey team some day should a proposal made to the District of Houston council lead to an agreement to use the Claude Parish Memorial Arena.

The Greater Metro Hockey League, which had its start in Ontario, is looking to add four B.C. teams to a western division now made up of four teams from northern Alberta.

“We have reviewed the Houston demographics and population data, conducted a facility review, and taken your community’s long-standing history of hockey support in general in determining that Houston would make an excellent addition to our already successful Junior A hockey division,” a pitch made to Houston council June 15 indicated.

The league, which operates outside of the national Hockey Canada organization that represents all levels of minor hockey, is in its 17th year back East and is just in its second season out West in those four northern Alberta towns of Slave Lake, Enoch, High Prairie and Fox Creek.

In an email to council, league official Derek Prue said a Houston team would need 21 game slots for which it would pay a negotiated minor hockey rate along with Monday to Thursday practice times for which the team would pay half of a game rate “or less if the municipality/regional district wishes to contribute or offset with team sponsorship.”

The team would also want to “create corporate sponsorship revenue, usually using advertising opportunities not currently being utilized by the municipality” and earn money from game-day beer gardens.

Prue said players would also volunteer by doing community service.

Houston council has asked staffers to gather more information in advance of considering next steps.

“Over the next few weeks, staff will assess costs, logistics and policy considerations of the Greater Metro Hockey League’s request and will then present recommendations and implications to council,” said District corporate services director Duncan Malkinson.

Aside from corporate sponsorships, ticket sales and beer gardens, the GMHL charges its players a fee, commonly known as “pay to play” with rates being quoted of $8,000 up to $10,000 a season.

Aside from Houston in northern B.C., the GMHL has approached the District of Kitimat which is now in discussions over ice time and costs.

Kitimat council, however, was divided on the matter with some councillors welcoming the prospect of a new team while others worried about the impact on the community’s ice users, including the Ice Demons of the Central Interior Hockey League.

Approaches were also made to Quesnel and Williams Lake and both communities ultimately rejected the prospect of GMHL teams for reasons of financial viability and stability and effect on existing hockey teams and ice users.

There were also worries that a team operating outside of Hockey Canada are without its umbrella of standards and system of player development.

Players at a Junior A level range in age from 16 to 21 years.