“We have hockey,” board president Dustin Christensen said as about 80 fans applauded and shouted their approval.
“I will welcome them with open arms,” said Harriet Arrants, a season ticket holder to Wenatchee Wild games for the last five years.
The relocation of the team must still be approved by the North American Hockey League’s board of governors, which is meeting on Thursday and Friday. That approval is expected to be given.
The team, which is owned by David White and shootthepuck.inc, would take on the Wenatchee Wild name and logo. There are currently only three teams left in the division that the team will play in, including Fairbanks and Kenai, Alaska. There may be a realignment of the league’s divisions to add more teams to the division.
Addressing the crowd, the arena’s Manager Mark Miller said, “Hockey community, we heard you loud and clear that you want the Wenatchee Wild. … The name and logo will be here.”
He added that arena officials also knew that hockey fans wanted a team that played at the same level as the former team.
“We will continue our quest to bring home a Robertson Cup in the NAHL,” he said, which brought applause and shouts of “Thank you!”
Miller and the arena’s attorney, Pete Fraley, have been working for weeks to find a replacement team after negotiations to keep the former NAHL team in town reached a stalemate.
That team’s president, Bill Stewart, announced last week that he was moving the team to Texas.
Miller said that the owner of the Fresno Monsters, David White, read a newspaper article about the contract problems with the Wild and contacted arena officials about his interest in moving the Monsters to Wenatchee. NAHL officials also contacted White after learning that the Wenatchee arena was shopping for a new team.
Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz, who sits on the arena board, said White was offered the same contract that the board offered Stewart in March.
He said White “loves the facility, loves the fans and he wanted to be here.”
While there were many teams interested in Wenatchee, Kuntz said White was “able to put a deal together faster than other teams. (League) deadlines were fast approaching, and we had to get this put together quick.”
Of White, Kuntz said, “From all I’ve heard, he’s a fantastic guy, self made in the fruit industry. I have all the confidence that he’ll be successful here.”
Some fans showed up to the meeting in their Wild jerseys, one waving a large flag with the Wild name and logo.
Lynn Coering of Wenatchee said she has been a season ticket holder and will continue to be one since the new team will also play tier 2 hockey. Many fans feared a lower tier 3 team would be brought in.
Arrants said Fresno has a reputation among local hockey fans for being dirty, but that may be because they were a chief rival of the wild.
She also said she hopes the players will continue to volunteer and be active in the community.
“I think those boys will be wonderfully happy in Wenatchee,” she said.
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152