As early as this fall, Meadow Lake could have a new hockey league making its home in the community.
The 23-team Western States Hockey League (WSHL) has been active for the last 24 years, and is in the midst of expanding into Canada with the Western Provinces Hockey Association (WPHA) — a Junior A-level intended for 18-to-20-year old male players.
Meadow Lake Mayor Gary Vidal, along with Coun. Tom Harrison attended a press conference in Cold Lake, Alta. last week, as that city is also being considered as a potential site for expansion. Other locations under consideration are Slave Lake, Hinton, Edson and Morinville, Alta.
“They’ve got a business model that obviously has worked for junior hockey in the western United States,” he said. “They’re looking to have six or eight teams in place by this fall, hopefully, and have identified six communities already that have committed. We’re probably able to provide the ice time [and] other things they require between our two [local] rinks.”
Vidal said he spoke with Chief Jeremy Norman, and other local hockey associations and said there seems to be a great deal of local support.
“There would be 27 home dates, all on weekends,” Vidal said. “Community comes together around a sporting event. There’s a real upside, not just to economics, but community spirit.”
Derek Prue, the international expansion representative with the WPHA, said the level of hockey in the WSHL is popular in the western states, with many players ending up at the collegiate and pro leagues.
“To me that speaks volumes,” he said. “There is shortage of teams available for athletes that are capable of playing Junior A hockey.”
He said Meadow Lake exudes a number of important ideals the league is looking for including dressing room space, and is a prime ‘hockey community.’
“We look forward to moving forward with the discussions. We will meet with business leaders, chamber of commerce, and speak with everyone there to gauge support as well,” Prue said.
Vidal said Prue hopes to visit the community in the next couple of weeks.
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