A pair of former Panther owners are off the bench and back in the game after purchasing the rights to the local junior-B hockey club, which was being run by the league.
John Wilson and Pete Zubersky purchased the Peninsula Panthers junior B team after weekend meetings with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
“We really enjoyed our time when we did it,” said Zubersky who owned the team for eight years, until about five years ago. Wilson took over the club for two years after that. Jackson Penney took ownership about two and half years ago and relinquished it to the league last month.
Wilson learned of the team’s availability and after a call to Zubersky – and conversations with their wives, Coreen Zubersky and Val Wilson – the two families made a powerplay for ownership.
“What you see in the on-ice product is a culmination of a lot of off-ice work by volunteers and people putting together a business plan,” Wilson said of the full family commitment involved. The new owners met with players Monday night to break the news.
The Panthers saw success on the ice the past two years, earning league titles, provincial titles and finishing fourth at nationals last year.
Zubersky and Wilson will focus on rebuilding local relationships with the community, local businesses and Peninsula Minor Hockey.
“Those are the people we need to develop relationships with because without those, we’re toast,” said Zubersky. “Minor hockey is our bread and butter and we want to build those ties again.”
Parents, players and coaches wear the logos of both the minor hockey Eagles and the Panthers with pride, said minor hockey president Steve Pearce.
“Players coming out (to play) is very important. It’s important to development for the kids. With hockey skills and social skills required for life. Hockey is really secondary for 99 per cent of these kids,” Pearce said.
The old owners will resurrect old prices on Friday night (Dec. 9). All tickets for the Panthers game are $5 with a donation to the Sidney Lions Food Bank.
The team will face Comox at 7:30 p.m. at Panorama Recreation Centre.
Saturday night they host arch rivals Victoria Cougars at 7:30 p.m. Parksville is in town Dec. 16 and the Panthers make the trip to Oceanside Place Dec. 17 before breaking for the Christmas holiday.
“That’s going to give us some time to take a breath,” Zubersky said.