The Quesnel Kangaroos senior team is against the non-sanctioned GMHL coming to Quesnel. (Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

The Quesnel Kangaroos senior team is against the non-sanctioned GMHL coming to Quesnel. (Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

GMHL responds to Quesnel critics

The non-sanctioned league sent a letter to local government in response to concerns

The Greater Metro Hockey League has responded to concerns the non-sanctioned league isn’t right for Quesnel.

League executive Derek Prue penned a letter to the North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee (NCJPC), after the Quesnel and District Minor Hockey Association (QDMHA) and Quesnel Kangaroos sent their own letters to the committee questioning if the city should support a team.

Prior, Prue had made a presentation to the NCJPC during its January meeting, prompting the Kangaroos to write their letter. The GMHL is an unsanctioned league, meaning Hockey Canada has no influence on their operations.

READ MORE: Junior league eyes Quesnel for expansion

Prue said the league uses the same insurer as Hockey Canada, and sold the GMHL’s outsider status as a positive.

“We are not forced to play in a footprint pre-determined by Hockey Canada,” Prue wrote. “Hockey Canada and its affiliates historically places its emphasis on the southern portions of its provinces, making it extremely difficult for northern teams to be successful and economically viable.”

All three letters were taken in by the committee during their Feb. 9 meeting. The NCJPC had asked for a staff report on the potential impacts of a GMHL franchise during their January meeting but have not received the report yet.

Brian Inwood, the president of the QDMHA, said he had two concerns in his letter. The first was players could not bounce back and forth between affiliated and non-affiliated leagues and the GMHL’s issues with stability.

“This league appears to have had some issues in the past around suddenly leaving a town or even going bankrupt mid-season, which has the potential to leave the city holding some debt and the players and sponsors not fully getting their money’s worth,” his letter reads.

Prue said the GMHL’s attrition rates were some of the lowest of any league, combating the QDMHA’s concerns the league was on unstable footing, adding the western division is stable enough to be expanding in the midst of a pandemic.

“We’re part of the GMHL, but our business model is different,” Prue said in an interview in January. “[The East Division’s] business model, they’re not even based on fans. My full-time job is to make sure teams are up and running and successful … We need to know our teams are there for the long term.”

The concerns Inwood brought forward in his letter largely echoed the concerns of the Kangaroos. The senior team’s letter also took issue with the league calling itself “junior A” and its status as a pay-to-play league. The letter said the GMHL wasn’t equivalent to a junior B league.

The Kangaroos letter referenced a 2019 Hockey Canada document noting referees and players who play in non-sanctioned leagues are not allowed to participate in any sanctioned activities.

READ MORE: Kangaroos fighting GMHL junior expansion into Quesnel

In response, Prue flatly denied referees were denied opportunities, saying the 2019 document doesn’t match the reality on the ground, and GMHL players can move freely to Hockey Canada leagues once they leave the GMHL. He also said sanctioned junior A leagues like the BCHL have begun charging tuition.

The GMHL’s players pay between $8,000 and $10,000 per year to play in the league.

“Since the 2019 document, it has become common knowledge that referees can and do officiate both sanctioned and non-sanctioned games at the same time, indeed, often in the same weekend,” Prue wrote. “This is great news for local officials, who will now be able to officiate Jr. A hockey without travelling great distances.”

The next NCJPC meeting is set for March 9

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