The BC Football Conference is looking to expand and add a seventh team to the mix.
The Prince George Kodiaks have received conditional approval to join the junior football league for the 2022 season. They would play against Chilliwack’s Valley Huskers along with the Langley Rams, Kamloops Broncos, Westshore (Victoria) Rebels, Vancouver Island (Nanaimo) Raiders and Okanagan (Kelowna) Sun.
Prince George would be the northernmost team in the BCFC, by far, located 521 kilometres up Highway 97-N from Kamloops.
The Rebels and Raiders in particular will face a daunting task getting to PG, and league president Tyler McLaren said travel is a concern.
“It certainly is a challenge, I don’t think anybody would disagree with that,” McLaren said. “But the opportunity and potential exceeds the challenge, and anything that’s worth pursuing, you find a solution.
McLaren suggested limiting trips from PG to the Island and vice versa, and also suggested the possibility of chartering aircraft to get teams back and forth.
Chilliwack’s Valley Huskers face a 1,446 kilometre round trip, and Huskers president Tom Caverley said the extra travel will be “challenging financially.”
“To meet this challenge the BCFC will create schedules that limit the amount of travel,” he said. “At one point or another we will be Prince George bound and looking forward to the competition.”
McLaren said it’s the league’s responsibility to help grow the game beyond its traditional centers, and bringing Prince George into the fold is a way to do that. PG and the surrounding area is a strong football market in its own right, with thriving high school and community teams.
“This is a unique opportunity, and we feel this isn’t just an opportunity to grow the sport at our level, but also at younger levels,” McLaren said. “We see it as an opportunity where kids who are 10, 12, 14 years old are going to come to a BCFC game and develop aspirations to one day play for the Kodiaks.
“We’re expected to think big picture and what is good for the sport and this is a tremendous opportunity.”
BCFC rosters have been dotted with Prince George kids and Kodiaks president Craig Briere said one of the new team’s main goals is to keep them at home.
He also shares McLaren’s vision of growing the game.
“How can we grow football throughout Northern BC and expand into smaller communities such as Williams Lake, Quesnel, Terrace, Prince Rupert, Smithers and Burns Lake,” Briere said. “If you look at the football map, Northern BC is one of the more under-serviced areas in Canada. Football is such a diverse sport that allows for kids of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and economic status to participate, and I think we’d be doing a disservice if we don’t have football in these smaller towns.”
Briere said the Kodiaks hope to draw between two and three thousand people per game at Masich Place Stadium, and turn every home game into an event.
The Kodiaks will be guided by Keon Raymond, a former Canadian Football League star who won two Grey Cup titles with the Calgary Stampeders.