With the announcement Wednesday that the Western Provinces Hockey Association have agreed to join the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League based in Ontario, a league official says the Cold Lake Wings will be in action next season.
After a falling out with the Western States Hockey League, WPHA official Derek Prue said the Wings will be playing in the GMHL next year.
“There’s gonna be some exciting announcements in the near future and with Cold Lake specifically…there is definitely going to be junior hockey in Cold Lake and in the WPHA,” said Prue.
Prue said the Wings are looking at “several” candidates for the head coach and general manager position as former coach Marek Babic left the team to coach in Italy.
He added they are looking for local ownership groups interested in purchasing the team.
The WPHA and WSHL are pay-to-play leagues that are unsanctioned by Hockey Canada. Players who suit up are suspended from participating in any Hockey Canada event or league for the remainder of that season.
In May, the WSHL terminated their agreement with the WPHA and the individual franchises by consequence because of unpaid franchise fees, said WSHL commissioner Ron White.
He said which the WSHL now controls former WPHA franchises in Edson and Meadow Lake.
“The WPHA did not live up to the agreement with the WSHL,” said White.
“There were significant membership obligations to the Western States Hockey League that had been due for over a year.”
“We would not agree to any sort of relationship with them,” he added.
The Town of Hinton terminated their contract with the WPHA over unpaid fees, which led to the WPHA filing a lawsuit protecting their lease.
On their Facebook page, Hinton posted on June 5: “The Town had entered into an agreement with the Wildcats that provided for use of the Hinton Recreation Centre. As a result of the Wildcats failing to pay the amounts required by the agreement or to remedy those defaults in the time required, that agreement was terminated. There is no longer any agreement between the Town and the Wildcats. The WPHA and the Wildcats have recently commenced legal action seeking to declare that the agreement remains in effect; however, there is no basis for that legal action and the Town intends to respond and have the application dismissed.”
The new Hinton Timberwolves team will play in the WSHL, but Derek Prue said the Wildcats will be around in the WPHA next year.
He says there is a lot of misinformation being spread by the WSHL about their league.
“I don’t want to get into the same type of mudslinging. There’s a lot of disinformation and misinformation being sent out by that organization. We’re not getting into that. Between the four WPHA teams as a first-year organization, paid the WSHL over $310,000 dollars US. So our stance is that as first-year organizers for four first-year organizations we did extremely well.
“Unfortunately, the WSHL, south of the border they lost five teams. I think it’s more of a scenario where they are looking at this as an opportunity for the future and trying to essentially do a hostile takeover. We’re not just gonna sit back and let that happen,” said Prue.
Both unsanctioned leagues have expansion plans in Canada with more announcements to come soon.
The WPHA announced Enoch Cree Nation and Slave Lake will have franchises and could have 5-7 teams playing in the GMHL next season.
The WSHL said there could be significant expansion in western Canada as well.
“Our intent is to continue to add teams, not only in Alberta but in parts of British Columbia and Saskatchewan.”