With a slight ferry-induced delay and to the gleeful shrieks of potential future players (and whoops from future fans), Pacific Junior Hockey League commissioner Trevor Alto announced Tuesday evening that the Sunshine Coast is joining the league in September 2024.
More than 100 people – including representatives from several local governments, the league, local businesses, and MP Patrick Weiler – gathered in the team’s future home, Gibsons and Area Community Centre Arena, to celebrate the “historic” announcement on Aug. 1.
Gibsons Building Supplies owner Julie Reeves has bought the team as the majority shareholder in Coastal Sports & Entertainment Group, along with investor Jon Hulstein. “My grandparents started a legacy of supporting community, we support everything,” said Reeves. “Anybody that comes through the door looking for something, receives something. Sometimes it’s 10 bucks, sometimes it’s a hockey team.”
While she’s not a hockey player – nor does she know how to skate – Reeves is described as a “driving force” behind the project in a league press release. Reeves told the crowd she would apply her approach from the store to the team, encouraging a familial atmosphere so that “we can nurture all these young people…and ultimately just let them grow into the best humans they possibly can be and give them as much opportunity.”
Founding member of the Sechelt Minor Hockey Association in 1974 and longtime teacher, Jim Gray, shared heartfelt reminiscences of hockey’s evolution and influence on the Coast with the crowd and recognized the efforts of the Sunshine Coast Junior Hockey Society. “The Sunshine Coast has been waiting for a group to cheer on, support, fast, exciting hockey,” he said. “It appears that our time has come.”
The volunteer effort, the excitement of the announcement and the community-building importance of hockey featured in the speeches from society president Stu Frizzell, SJHL director of operations Rick Hopper and the Sunshine Coast’s two mayors, regional district board chair and MP.
With the announcement done and a mere year before the team hits the ice, fundraising is under way for an arena expansion and upgrades, part of the society’s deal with the Sunshine Coast Regional District, which owns the building.
The team name and logo are to come later this year following community participation and input, said the PJHL release.