Following a couple of tumultuous years for the franchise, Chris Laurie, newly appointed president of the West Kelowna Warriors B.C. Hockey League club, is asking the community for a clean slate.
It’s been a busy few days for the Warriors, first with Tuesday’s announcement that John Murphy and Rod Hume had purchased the club from the BCHL, followed by the naming of Laurie, a local who had been the initial marketing director for the Warriors, as president.
“We’re not going to talk much about the past,” said Murphy, who along with Laurie met with the media at Royal LePage Place on Wednesday morning.
Hume was unable to attend.
Murphy, whose son played one year of hockey with the West Kelowna Warriors two years ago, said he loves the game.
Despite poor game attendance and the Warriors almost moving elsewhere a few years ago, Murphy said West Kelowna deserves and can support a junior hockey franchise.
Strong ownership with professional management and a winning culture can bring a successful franchise to West Kelowna, he said.
The plan is to bring back a competitive, championship-caliber team, and Murphy intends to keep the Warriors in West Kelowna long-term.
“It’s going to take some up-front investment to improve the operation, to improve the experience, so we have a long-term plan in place, but we think it can be viable,” said Murphy.
Building relationships with the community, community organizations, minor hockey, players, staff and employees will solve some of the past issues for the club, he said.
Laurie, who has worked for successful teams in the United States, is excited.
“To rebuild a franchise in my home town, in my home market, it’s a no-brainer,” said Laurie. “I just can’t wait to see what we can do with this.”
Laurie said they have many improvements and upgrades to explore, including partnering with local businesses.
“We’ll be looking to build and rebuild any relationships that maybe aren’t where they should be right now,” he said.
While he didn’t think it fair for him to comment on the hockey side, Murphy said the staff is working hard.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, they’ve got a lot of work to do and everybody knows it. Everyone can look at our record right now and know it,” he said.
“‘Let’s get at it,’ is my philosophy.”
Murphy, who is principal owner of the club, declined to reveal the purchase price.
Both Murphy and Laurie said they realize the importance of getting people out to the games, earning their loyalty by putting a good competitive product on the ice and giving fans good entertainment value for their dollar.
The next home game for the West Kelowna Warriors is Nov. 22 as they take on the Wenatchee Wild at 7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place.
Fans can come out early for the new Hockey Happy Hour that allows people to buy two-for-one beer, wine and cider before the anthem.
Westkelowanwarriors.ca has details.