The Blackfalds Wranglers are ditching town and moving to Sylvan Lake for the 2019-20 season.
Last week, the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) gave approval for the team to relocate during a June 2 league meeting.
The decision to move was spurred by information from the Town of Blackfalds in May that an Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) team had applied to come into the community, causing concern about the viability of the Wranglers if they were to remain in town.
“I don’t think we can compete with a Jr. A team there with sponsorship and so on – that’s asking quite a bit for Blackfalds,” said Wranglers coach Brian Lenz. “Even with the (Lacombe) Generals last year, our crowds were down when we both played on Sunday afternoons, so I don’t think competing with a Jr. A team would’ve worked, and neither did our Board of Directors.”
Even with the Lacombe Generals withdrawing from the Allan Cup Hockey West (ACHW), the Wranglers still didn’t think there was enough room in the market for two junior teams.
It was then they were approached by Sylvan Lake, who had interested parties in the community looking to start a Jr. B franchise of their own, suggesting they relocate there.
After a few meetings, a tour of their new NexSource Centre with twin arenas, they Wranglers chose to officially pursue Sylvan Lake, and as of last Monday, their move – and that of the 2020 Jr. B provincials they were awarded earlier this year – was made official. All they’re waiting on is an agreement to be inked with the town to allow their use of the ice at the NexSource.
“It’s happened quick, but we knew it had to. We were planning on moving next year, but when Sylvan showed us their arena and setup, we decided we might as well just go this year,” he said.
“The people of Blackfalds have supported us and we appreciate all they’ve done for us, but it’s tough trying to keep our team going when they’ve got Jr. A coming in there.”
The Wranglers originally started as a Jr. B team located in Lacombe, but have called the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena home since 2007. The organization has won five HJHL championships and three provincial titles – the most of any HJHL team – as well as a gold and bronze finish at the Keystone Cup.
Given that legacy, it’s unlikely the Wranglers name will change.
“In the meetings we’ve had with Sylvan, they said they definitely want the history of the Wranglers,” he said. “Whether it’ll be Sylvan Lake Wranglers or what, we’re not sure yet, but the Wranglers will stay.”
Those details, as well as changes to team jerseys will be hashed out in their next couple of meetings.
“I never dreamt I’d be around when we moved because Blackfalds was treating us so well,” said Lenz.
“I’d just like to thank Blackfalds and the fans for all their support over the years and hopefully they have a successful Jr. A team come in there.”
The Wranglers speculate a Jr. A team moving into the community wouldn’t happen until the 2020-21 season. Meanwhile, the AJHL has confirmed that there has been no formal request for relocation or expansion regarding Blackfalds.
The Town of Blackfalds won’t confirm or deny any pending plans regarding an AJHL team coming into the community.