Centennials sale falls through
John O’Connor – Merritt News
The sale of the Merritt Centennials to an Alberta businessman has fallen through unexpectedly but the Centennials Society is prepared to run the team again.
Last Wednesday, Whitecourt Wolverines president Brent Stark and his purchase group Stark Sports Entertainment, unexpectedly pulled out of talks with the Merritt Centennials and the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) to purchase the team.
“It certainly caught everybody by surprise,” said Merritt Centennials governor and director of hockey operations Brian Barrett.
“We had a very good feeling that everything would have gone through but at the last minute he pulled out his application to purchase the franchise,” continued Barrett.
The Centennials, who have been kept alive thanks in part to private community-based supporters, were scheduled to be purchased by Stark Sports pending approval from the BCHL.
“We never really got a clear explanation as to what happened,” said Barrett.
The sale of the team to Stark was announced shortly after former Whitecourt Wolverines head coach Joey Bouchard was named the Centennials bench boss in May.
Stark has not returned messages left by the Merritt News. The Wolverines are a Junior B team in Alberta’s North West Junior Hockey League. The team won the league championship under Bouchard and Stark last season.
Barrett says the non-profit Merritt Centennials Hockey Club Society is confident and will continue to run the team as it has before the deal was announced.
“We will be operating the club on a clean slate,” said Barrett.
The $350,000 dept from past seasons has been paid off by community supporters.
We had a meeting here prior to this offer coming on the table – they were 110 per cent behind the restructured Society and if for whatever reason this didn’t come through that they were prepared to operate it in a very professional and strong fashion, “ said BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale.
“I can tell you that all of the bills and everything have been paid and from the Society point of view and the board point of view, it’s in a very good position.”
The Merritt Centennials made some changes to their Board of Directors in the spring. Tod Dean, Beth Nadeau, Frank Etchart, Jerry Canuel and Brian Barrett are all new additions to the Board.
The Centennials will play their first exhibition game at 7 p.m. August 31 against Penticton at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.