A new junior hockey team is coming to White Rock – and the name may sound familiar for longtime hockey fans in the city.
This fall – in time for the 2018/19 hockey season – the White Rock Whalers will join the junior ‘B’ Pacific Junior Hockey League, the league announced in an online post Sunday.
The team will be owned by longtime Semiahmoo Peninsula businessman Ronnie Paterson, who for the last eight years has been a co-owner of the PJHL’s Richmond Sockeyes and prior to that, owned the junior ‘A’ Surrey Eagles along with Ralph Berezan for six years.
Paterson called Peace Arch News himself Sunday evening to confirm the announcement, calling the development “very exciting.”
“I think it’s great for the community,” he said, adding that the addition of the expansion team had been in the works for “six to eight” months.
In April 2017, PJHL president Ray Stonehouse told PAN that the league was looking to expand, and was eyeing both White Rock and Cloverdale markets.
“I think it’s a great league that is going to continue to grow,” Paterson said Sunday.
The Whalers will play out of Centennial Arena. The original White Rock Whalers junior team played out of the same arena from 1985-1989 in the West Coast Junior Hockey League – the precursor to the PJHL – and won a league title in 1988.
Paterson, who also served as an assistant coach for the Sockeyes this past season, said he was motivated to bring a team back to White Rock in order to keep Semiahmoo Peninsula players playing close to home. He expected the team to have a “significant partnership” with both the Surrey Eagles and Semiahmoo Minor Hockey.
“I talked to a few people and everyone was supportive and thought it was a good idea,” said Paterson. “I talked with Chuck (Westgard, Eagles president) and Blaine (Neufeld, the Eagles’ general manager), and they’re both very supportive.
“We think this is going to be a great marriage.”
The Whalers will be the 12th team in the PJHL, which also has franchises in Surrey, Delta and Langley, in addition to Paterson’s former team, the Sockeyes. The Sockeyes are the reigning provincial junior ‘B’ champions, and last year had a roster chock full of South Surrey and White Rock players.