November 20th, 2016

Group enters bid for university hockey team in Nanaimo

By Dominic Abassi
Nanaimo News Now 


Nanaimo is on the verge of getting a university hockey team.

A newly organized non-profit group called VIU Hockey Inc. expects to make their submission any day now to establish a B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) franchise under the banner of Vancouver Island University athletics. The team would begin play in the five-team league in Sept. 2017. The local group expects to find out as early as the second week of December if their bid to join the league is accepted.

"It's designed for players who want to continue on playing high-calibre hockey while getting an education," said VIU Hockey Inc. board chair Myles Parsons. "Education is number one, playing hockey is number two."

Parsons says they would be a part of the VIU athletics family, but would play as a club team, as opposed to varsity. VIU currently has two club teams -- rugby was established two years ago and baseball will be joining next season. Soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton and golf are considered varsity sports at the university.

The main difference between the two types of teams at VIU is funding. Varsity teams are funded through the school. Club organizations are responsible for their own financial support, except for uniforms, which are provided by the university.

"Hockey is a really important sport in Nanaimo," said VIU's executive director of student affairs Dr. Carrie Chassels. "It was an exciting opportunity that we saw as a benefit to both the university and the members of Nanaimo's community."

Parsons says they expect their annual operating budget for the 24-game BCIHL season would be around $80,000. The bulk of that would be travel expenses. He says their club would be a pay-to-play structure, with registration fees for their athletes. The rest of their support would come largely from sponsorships and donations, which Parsons is confident they will be able to raise. He says everyone he has had meetings with about ice time, including the city and the hockey community, is completely on board with their efforts.

"We have a couple of young men who have come to us and they're so excited about being able to play competitive hockey," Parsons said. "They study and play in the rec league in town, but this would be a higher level."

Parsons says the BCIHL is a perfect next step for players who have finished their junior, or under-20, eligibility and want to focus on their education while still playing at a high level. In order to play, athletes would have to be enrolled in a minimum number of classes at VIU. There is no age restriction to play in the BCIHL. Parsons says players have to be out of pro hockey for at least one year and can play in the intercollegiate league for a maximum of five years.

Parsons expects the Nanaimo team to play on weekends out of the Ice Centre. The BCIHL has franchises at Selkirk College in Castlegar, Trinity Western University in Langley, Eastern Washington University, Simon Fraser and University of Victoria. Parsons says the B.C. teams often play exhibition games with clubs from Alberta and the NCAA.

The BCIHL has a league meeting scheduled for Dec. 7, according to Parsons. He says he's hopeful after that meeting he will find out if Nanaimo's first ever university hockey team will start skating next year.

Read More in the Nanaimo News Bulletin