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Spruce Kings want Quesnel back in BCHL

The Prince George Spruce Kings are all for the West Kelowna Warriors franchise relocating to Quesnel. For the past six seasons the Kings have been all alone as the only B.C.
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The Prince George Spruce Kings are all for the West Kelowna Warriors franchise relocating to Quesnel.

For the past six seasons the Kings have been all alone as the only B.C. Hockey League team in north central region and due to their isolation, they incur expenses other BCHL teams located close to population centres do not encounter.

Having a neighbour 116 kilometres away would help reduce the Spruce Kings' day-to-day operating costs, which rank near the top of the 17-team league.

Next to staff wages, team travel is the biggest annual operational cost for the Spruce Kings. Hotel stays and restaurant meals cost the team about $100,000 per season, which doesn't include playoffs.

The closest opponents for the Spruce Kings are the Merritt Centennials, 533 kilometres away, and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, a one-way trip of 633 kilometres. But both those teams are in the Interior Division, which means the Spruce Kings travel there for just one game per season. Prince George plays in the Mainland Division and the closest divisional opponent is 652 kilometres away in Chilliwack.

"We would obviously support it, to have a travel partner up here in the north would certainly be nice for us and it would be great for Quesnel," said Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes. "I know they're a hockey-starved community and would love to get a team in there especially with the new facility they're going to have."

The $20.6 million, 1,400-seat North Cariboo Arena in Quesnel is on time and on budget, scheduled for a September opening.

The Quesnel Millionaires played in the BCHL from 1995-2011, joining the same year Prince George entered the league. When Quesnel was in the league, the Spruce Kings played there five and sometimes six times per season. The Williams Lake Timberwolves were added to the loop as a third northern team in 2002 and lasted for eight seasons before they folded at the end of the 2009-10 season.

Hawes said a second team in the north would allow the Spruce Kings to avoid doubleheaders with the same team and offer more variety for their fans on weekend home dates with two visiting teams playing on alternating nights in either city.