Wenatchee, Washington/Chilliwack, BC – The Chilliwack Chiefs will have to make sure all their players have current passports. For the first time in 20 years, the BCHL heads south of the 49th.
The Wenatchee Wild will join the BCHL as its 17th franchise starting with the 2015-16 season, the team and league announced Monday at a media conference held in the central Washington city.
“The BCHL is gaining a strong franchise in the Wenatchee Wild and we value the passion and professionalism they bring to our league,” said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale. “The Wild will quickly develop rivalries with our existing franchises and I believe they will be a big draw in opposing buildings.”
The Wild had been a member the North American Hockey League (NAHL) since the 2008-09 season. They have had a winning record in each of their seven seasons of existence and this past season, they had six players on their roster committed to NCAA Div. I programs. Playing out of Wenatchee’s Town Toyota Center, the team averages about 3,000 fans at home games.
Head coach Bliss Littler, a native of Minot, N.D., is entering his 22nd year as a Junior hockey coach.
“We could not be more excited or humbled to be joining the BCHL,” said Littler. “Knowing the history and reputation of the league, be it sending players to play NCAA Division I hockey, NHL draft picks or the professionalism of the member teams and league have, we look forward to being a good league member on and off the ice.”
As a U.S.-based club, the Wild will be allowed to roster a maximum of four Canadian players.
With the announcement, they become the first U.S.-based franchise in the BCHL since the Bellingham Ice Hawks, who operated from 1990 to 1995.