Today’s Poll

KIJHL approves BCHL's Merritt Centennials as expansion franchise

Lone Sheep Publishing
By Lone Sheep Publishing
April 1st, 2024

After spending more than five decades in the BC Hockey League, the Merritt Centennials announced the team is leaving the league following the completion of this season to play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

Centennials president Ken Carruthers said in a news release issued Sunday the board decided to conclude playing in the BCHL.

“The Board members past and present have worked extremely hard to maintain 51 continuous years of operation in the BCHL but have finally conceded that continuing into the future is no longer viable,” Carruthers said.

“To our community, we hope you will attend over the playoffs and we fill the barn in celebration and pride to the end of 51 hard-fought years.”

However, instead of folding the franchise, the Centennials are moving to the KIJHL after league governors approved Merritt as an expansion to  begin play for the 2024/25 season.

“The Centennials have a rich history and this year celebrated their 51st consecutive season of continuous junior hockey in the City of Merritt,” says KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois in a media release Sunday.

Merritt’s expansion application was approved unanimously by the KIJHL’s Board of Governors, and will see the longstanding Junior A club move from community to private ownership under the leadership of Brad Anstey and Daniel Schofield. The team will join the Bill Ohlhausen division, taking the place of the Summerland Steam following that franchise’s relocation to Williams Lake.

“Brad and Daniel have a great vision for a successful and sustainable KIJHL franchise, and our Board of Governors was thrilled to see the tremendous support that exists within the community for a transition to our league,” Dubois added.

Anstey said the ownership group is excited to keep the Merritt Centennials hockey in the community with its most dedicated fans, sponsors, alumni, and volunteers.

“We guarantee our commitment to grow the Centennials brand while building a competitive team with the best of sporting cultures,” Anstey said.

“We are proud to become a member of a league that provides development opportunities for local and provincial players to continue to pursue their hockey goals and dreams. We thank the City of Merritt and the KIJHL for this opportunity.”

The Centennials will continue to play out of the 1,000-seat Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, with the team’s ownership group having secured a new five-year lease agreement for the facility.

“The City of Merritt is very excited to embark on a new journey in the history of the Merritt Centennials hockey club,” says Merritt mayor Michael Goetz.

“The 2024-25 season looks to hold a whole new and exciting team as well as new opponents that we have not seen in the Valley before. We are very pleased to see the Centennials become part of the KIJHL and we have signed a long-term lease to make sure this new brand of hockey stays and grows in Merritt.

“We continue to see one of the longest-running Junior Hockey franchises secure its position for years to come, and we also welcome the new owners and appreciate their investment in keeping Merritt as one of the top hockey cities in B.C. Welcome to Merritt and we look forward to dropping the puck on a new season.”

Centennials fans should expect a number of immediate rivalries to develop, with the Kamloops Storm, Princeton Posse, Kelowna Chiefs and Chase Heat all located less than 90 minutes from Merritt.

Merritt, finishing the season in sixth spot in the Interior Division behind the Trail Smoke Eaters with a 22-26-5-1-0 record, has a bit of unfinished business to conclude before flipping the script on its Junior Hockey franchise.

The Centennials face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the first round of the playoffs. The first two games are in Salmon Arm with the series shifting to Merritt for Game 3 and Game 4 on April 9 and April 10.

Categories: Sports

Other News Stories