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Smithers Steelheads make push for 2019-2020 return

If all goes to plan the Smithers Steelheads could be back for the 2019-2020 season.
If all goes to plan the Smithers Steelheads could be back for the 2019-2020 season. (Ryan Graham photo)

If all goes to plan the Smithers Steelheads could be back for the 2019-2020 season.

At a presentation given to town council on May 28, Eric Tevely and Jeremy Chadsey laid out the case to council for three requests that would support the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) team in a potential 2019-2020 return.

Those included a request for approval from council to serve beer (and only beer) in a designated section of the arena, as well as a request for a lease on the concession area at the arena, which is currently condemned and unfit for food preparation.

Tevely and Chadsey say that the team is interested in looking at undertaking required repairs to the concession stand to get it up and running to some capacity, even if it is just serving pizzas at games.

The presentation also requested permission for the team to have their logo on centre ice at the Civic Centre Arena.

Mayor Taylor Bachrach said council will consider the requests made by Tevely and Chadsey at their next meeting.

“There has been a ton of hard work put into the return of the team. But we know without the support of [council] our goals cannot be met,” a letter from the organization sent to council reads.

While they both expressed their general love for the sport, Tevely and Chadsey added that they, along with others involved with the organization, also want to offer a place for budding hockey players to develop and find themselves as players.

Tevely said that one of the places Canadian hockey programs tend to fall short is providing programs for kids who aren’t headed to the NHL to pursue after they are done with minor or junior hockey.

“When you’re twenty years old you’re done,” he said, expressing that for many kids who don’t continue with hockey as a career, the only alternative is something like a weekly beer league.

But the two say that their vision for the Steelheads is one that welcomes these young players into the dressing room (which, by the way, still has to be built — but that’s on hold for now).

“It’s something me and Jeremy have talked about in depth … giving and facilitating a place for these players to go and this team would do that because we’re going to run [it] that way,” said Tevely, adding they have already reached out to a number of midget and junior players about the league getting back together.

“Our [goal] is to bring minor hockey players … into our dressing room [and] start turning it into something where a kid can look up to the team.”

Aside from their requests to council, Tevely and Chadsey also brought an issue the team has had of finding consistent referees, citing verbal abuse of officials by fans as a problem they both recognize and hope to address.

“It’s hard for a young kid to get involved and be able to ref those big games when a guy my size is going to yell at him and tell him he’s doing a bad job,” said Chadsey.

“It takes a mandate of us [telling teams], ‘Look, [you] can’t come in here and do that [and] if your players come in and do that, you guys kick them off the team’,” he added.

The requests to council come as the CIHL was down to just five teams last year (Quesnel, Terrace, Prince Rupert, Williams Lake and Kitimat).

At its height in the 2011-2012 season, the league had teams in three divisions.

As Chadsey explained, the general sentiment at the league’s last annual general meeting was that they couldn’t afford to lose any more teams.

“Everybody [understood] that this league, if we weren’t coming back in and Hazelton is now coming back in … the league would have folded.”

The Steelheads haven’t had a team in the CIHL since the 2017-2018 season.

The team won the CIHL championships in the 2015-2016 season.