With the US-Canada land border closed to non-essential travel for nearly an entire year now, the Wenatchee Wild and BC Hockey League reportedly left no stone unturned in finding a way for the circuit’s lone American-based club to play games for the 2020-21 season.
A recent article by Cassidy Dankochik in the Williams Lake Tribune mentions that Quesnel was in the running to host the Wild this season due to the border being closed due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan was presumably a relocation of the Wild to play either part or all of the 2020-21 BCHL season in Quesnel at the $20 million West Fraser Centre, depending on when travel restrictions were either relaxed or lifted – neither of which ended up happening.
“(I think) the league looked into if the possibility would exist (to play in Quesnel),” said Wenatchee general manager Bliss Littler. “We never went down that road very far, there were (just) too many roadblocks.”
Wenatchee ended up announcing it was taking a hiatus for the 2020-21 season on Nov. 24.
The news about the Wild looking at the potential of playing in Quesnel last year was included in a staff report to the North Cariboo Joint Committee meeting on Mar. 9 regarding a Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League team expanding to the city.
According to Dankochik, the report “was pulled from the (meeting) agenda after league officials said the report as written would prevent the GMHL from establishing a team in Quesnel”.
Have you visited #Quesnel's West Fraser Centre?
This modern building is beautiful & capable of hosting a variety of events, from B.C. curling championships to lacrosse tournaments, the venue is versatile.
Read about the curling competition: https://t.co/KiZEPUGBts@cityofquesnel pic.twitter.com/oDYttXoLep
— Northern Development Initiative Trust (@NorthernDevelop) June 24, 2019
GMHL intentions aside, the fact that Quesnel was explored as a temporary location for the Wild should be seen as a positive by many in that community.
In fact, the report states, “it is evident that the BCHL is aware of Quesnel and the new West Fraser Centre as a suitable venue for a BCHL team”.
A long history of junior hockey
The city of 23,000 had a junior hockey team from 1975-2011, save for a one-year hiatus from the Pacific-Cariboo Junior Hockey League in 1984-85. Quesnel was a junior B market until 1980 when the PCJHL became a junior A league.
The Millionaires remained in that league until 1996, when they joined the BCHL, technically as an expansion team. The Mills played 15 BCHL seasons in Quesnel before an ownership change saw them relocated to Chilliwack ahead of the 2011-12 season.
The Mills compiled a 258-554-14-74 record between 1996 and 2011 and only made the playoffs five times.
However, Quesnel did end up with two of the most notable alumni in the last 20 years in Montreal Canadiens star goaltender Carey Price and former sixth overall NHL draft pick Gilbert Brule.