Nathan Lieuwen, the majority owner and president of the Cranbrook Bucks, at the podium with Scott Niedermayer and BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb in the background. Trevor Crawley photo.

Nathan Lieuwen, the majority owner and president of the Cranbrook Bucks, at the podium with Scott Niedermayer and BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb in the background. Trevor Crawley photo.

Cranbrook Bucks expansion franchise joins BCHL

Hockey will be back in Cranbrook for the 2020-21 season after the departure of the WHL last March

The Cranbrook Bucks is the newest BCHL franchise.

In front of a crowd of fans and dignitaries at Western Financial Place, Nathan Lieuwen — the majority owner and president — announced the newest team to compete in the provincial Jr. A league, alongside BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb and Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt.

WATCH:

“I’m very excited and proud to bring you this announcement today. It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of long days. To get to this point is very special,” Lieuwen said. “…We look forward to working with our community and the surrounding areas in building lasting relationships and partnerships. We’re excited to be part of the Cranbrook scenery and the hockey behind it.”

The Bucks will compete in the 2020-21 BCHL season

Lieuwen, a WHL alumni with the former Kootenay Ice, is joined by fellow alum Adam Cracknell in the ownership structure, along with Scott Niedermayer, a Hall of Fame NHL defenceman who was raised in Cranbrook. Others with an ownership stake include Craig Shostak and Steve King, who are also owners of the Cardiff Devils, a hockey frachise in the British Elite Ice Hockey League.

Niedermayer credited Lieuwen’s passion and excitement for getting a hockey team in Cranbrook as a reason for getting involved with the effort.

“Especially seeing his passion and how excited he was about trying to do this made it very, very easy for me to say yes,” said Niedermayer.

Both King and Shostak have a hockey background and work in business based out of Calgary. Cracknell is continuing his professional hockey career in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with the Kunlun Red Star in China.

Hebb said Lieuwen reached out to him roughly a year ago to explore the possibility of a franchise in Cranbrook.

“About a year ago, I was getting phone calls and emails from some young guy who thought he could bring a team to your city and his name was Nathan Lieuwen,” said Hebb. “We talked a lot and back and forth and we handed him hoops and he jumped through them and we handed him another and he jumped through it.

“Here we are today with a situation that brings the 18th BC Hockey League team to Cranbrook.”

Hebb noted four pillars with the league— speed and skill, player safety, education, and community.

“Having driven around Cranbrook are for the last couple of days, I think this is a community that is going to do the BC Hockey League proud,” Hebb said.

A BCHL franchise coming to Cranbrook carries a $1.2 million expansion fee.

Hebb also hinted at a league realignment, noting that franchise governors have been in ongoing discussions.

“We’re probably going to have an interior division that Cranbrook fits into,” Hebb said. “We may stay with three divisions: Interior, Lower Mainland and Island. But I would also ask our competition committee to come back with some ideas where maybe there are four divisions, some six-team divisions, some four-team divisions.

“But that’s going to be decided by the hockey minds and that will be announced with in the next three months.”

Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt said the BCHL is an exciting brand of hockey that features high quality players who have gone on to NHL careers.

“We considered a lot of options that would fit into Western Financial Place including the number of fans, fan experience, and the long term sustainability of the franchise,” said Pratt. “These discussions were not taken lightly, and for hockey fans in Cranbrook and the surrounding area, this will be exciting for them to watch for many years to come.”

In an interview following the announcement, Pratt noted that there was interest from other groups working to bring a hockey team to Cranbrook, but noted Lieuwen’s BCHL option was the best fit.

“When we put out the RFP for interest, he was the only one that came back with a league proposal and a business proposal that made sense so from there, then it started to go deeper into the mechanics of it.”

The city was left reeling after a messy break-up with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice last January. After 21 years in Cranbrook, new ownership relocated the team to Winnipeg and still have an outstanding lease agreement valid until 2023.

Pratt confirmed the city remains in negotiations with the Ice over the agreement.

He also denied that the water leakage issues around the arena barrel roof would hinder hockey operations next season— a fix that is estimated to cost $3 million as part of an overall estimated $5.6 million roofing project for the entirety of Western Financial Place.

While there is no hockey in the city this season, the KIJHL rules the roost, with franchises in Creston, Kimberley, Fernie and Invermere.

KIJHL president Larry Martel says he is happy to see hockey back in Cranbrook and that the league has a good partnership with the BCHL.

“The KIJHL has a strong developmental hockey model and we promote many players from the KIJHL to the BCHL, AJHL, SJHL and MJHL Jr A leagues,” Martel said. “Having a team this close by for East Kootenay teams could turn out to be another recruiting tool. We have several teams located very close to BCHL franchises and its always been a very positive relationship between the teams and great for the hockey player and local fans.”



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon to listen to speakers decry COVID-19 restrictions. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents protest masks, COVID-19 restrictions

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)
Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read