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

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

The Alberni Valley’s Emergency Operations Centre is located around the corner and below the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
ACRD, First Nations to partner on regional evacuation route

Union of BC Municipalities grants $82K for route development

Traffic on Cherry Creek Road is at a standstill as emergency vehicles deal with the aftermath of a collision on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY TONY SHUMUK)
Air ambulance called for motor vehicle incident near Port Alberni

Helicopter lands on field near Cherry Creek Road

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have teamed up with the WCGH Foundation in the past to deliver stuffed animals to patients at the hospital. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Alberni Valley Bulldogs hope to score large donation for West Coast General Hospital

Challenge is part of a league-wide initiative to help give back to teams’ communities

A Port Alberni RCMP car blocks access to Anderson Avenue at Burde Street. (RCMP PHOTO)
Replica firearm prompts police incident in Port Alberni

RCMP had blocked off a neighbourhood while searching for ‘man with a gun’

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read