WENATCHEE — Former Wenatchee Wild coach Bliss Littler said Tuesday he hopes for the best for Wenatchee hockey fans going forward, and that means a British Columbia Hockey League expansion team.
“I’m just sick, I can’t believe a deal didn’t get done,” Littler said. “This market deserves a BCHL team, that’s for sure.”
Littler was surprised by the Junior Tier-II hockey franchise and Town Toyota Center officials’ inability to reach a new agreement on a contract to keep the Wild in town.
He said he was holding out hope the two sides would make a deal up until late Monday following the team’s 5-0 loss against the Amarillo Bulls in the Robertson Cup championship game. Littler said he was offered the head coaching position with the team, which will relocate to Hidalgo, Texas, as the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.
Littler, who has more than 20 years experience as a junior hockey coach, said it would still be possible for Wenatchee to bring in a BCHL team.
It’s the best option for Wenatchee, given its proximity to the Canadian border, the size of the area and the well-established hockey fan base, he said.
“That’s’ a level of hockey they (fans) deserve,” he said. “It’s the footprint; it’s what should be here. The travel, the quality of play, that’s what should be here.”
The franchise was planning to leave the North American Hockey League and join the BCHL for the 2013-14 season. Littler, who took over as bench boss this season, said he planned on coaching in Wenatchee for at least five years and was looking forward to ushering in a new era of Wild hockey.
The BCHL, like the NAHL, is a tier-II program, but at a more competitive level.
In all likelihood, an expansion BCHL team in Wenatchee would mean a year without hockey for fans — the BCHL begins scheduling for the 2013-14 season May 24.
There would be a lengthy procedure involved in getting approval from the league and its governing body, Hockey Canada, among other things.
Regardless, Littler believes it’s the best avenue for Wenatchee.
A Tier-III team would mean a less competitive brand of hockey and that could drive fans away, Littler said.
“Hopefully it (Town Toyota Center) sits empty for a year and somebody comes in and puts a BCHL team here for the fans’ sake,” he said. “I wish it would’ve been the Stewarts. My family, we absolutely love it here. …We were hoping to be here for a long time, so it’s a disappointing day.”
Jon Frank: 664-7157