January 3, 2019 3:07 am
Updated: January 3, 2019 9:54 pm

BCHL West Kelowna Warriors fighting to attract fans

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“Just one game is all it takes.”

That was the opening line of an open letter to West Kelowna residents from the owner of their local Junior A hockey team.

Kim Dobranski was appealing for his community to support the West Kelowna Warriors of the BC Hockey League before it’s too late.

“Sadly, communities don’t realize what they have until its gone,” Dobranski wrote, citing the loss of minor hockey in other B.C. communities.

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“I recently visited Delta which is looking for a Junior A team and their minor hockey is struggling to the point of nearly folding, and Delta has a population of about 100,000,” he wrote. “Quesnel, who lost their Junior A team in 2011, saw a steady decline in minor hockey and are now struggling to enroll new kids. The overall community impact was so severe Quesnel funded a brand new $22 million building just to try and attract a team back, and so far, unsuccessfully.”

The Warriors’ previous owner had attempted a deal to sell and relocate the team to North Delta in January of 2017. The sale collapsed.

West Fraser Centre in Quesnel was completed for $20.6 million in 2017 and is equipped with an NHL-size ice and seating for 1,300.

The BCHL Millionaires were sold in 2011 and moved from Quesnel to Chilliwack and became the Chiefs.

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There are just over 200 season ticket holders this year in West Kelowna, down from 240 last season and down from over 1,000 in 2006, according to the Warriors team owner and president.

“For the last four months the Warriors organization has worked hard to reach out and engage the community to try and revitalize the organization,” Dobranski wrote.

“If everyone came to just one game a year, we would be over sold every night.”

Attendance at the last game the Warriors hosted on Dec. 22, was 1,585, according to the BCHL game summary from the night.

Capacity is 1,500 plus standing room, according to Royal LePage Place, the host arena.

Dobranski listed more than a dozen local charities and causes the Warriors have supported this season as proof the franchise is “a significant benefit to the community.”

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“No other organization can create so much opportunity for others, not only to fundraise, but to raise awareness for their individual causes,” he wrote.

A night out at a Warriors game is an affordable local pursuit, he continued.

“Great hockey, free parking, a concession with great food, affordable games tickets, and a great community atmosphere in a beautiful building,” Dobranski wrote.

The Warriors are currently fourth in the BCHL Interior Division with 45 points.

Dobranski leads the KD Sports Ltd. group that purchased the West Kelowna BCHL franchise in August of 2018.

READ MORE: New ownership group for West Kelowna Warriors

This season is the franchise’s 25th, beginning in 1994 as the Langley Thunder before moving to West Kelowna in 2006, where they would be known as the Westside Warriors.

The name changed to the West Kelowna Warriors in 2012.

The team won the national championship in 2016, but have since been plagued by financial shortfalls.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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