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Editorial: Fan support can help keep the Cougars in Prince George

If the team is being sold, new local ownership can keep the momentum going
The Prince George Cougars had a thrilling playoff run to cap off the 2023-24 season.

The Citizen’s official position is that the Cougars belong in Prince George. Full stop.

Our exclusive story this week about the team being for sale and that one potential buyer is considering moving the Cats to Chilliwack hit hard and generated a lot of feedback. Some readers supported our reporting, others disputed it. We want to share why we ran the story in the first place, and what we think (and hope) will happen next.

The Citizen receives a lot of tips about local happenings, and we act on all of them. Some go nowhere. In this case, a tip led us to a reliable source who laid out the whole situation for us under the condition of anonymity. We then had an additional reliable source, well-known to us, confirm the information we had. This allowed us to share an important story that seems to be a bit of an open secret in town.

Readers can be critical of our use of unnamed sourcing for a story like this, but it’s long been a journalistic practice to offer anonymity to whistleblowers and other insiders who are putting their careers and reputations on the line by sharing important information. This is particularly true when the parties involved are silent. In this case, the team refused to say anything, and the WHL official we reached out to “declined to comment”.

It’s important to note that the official statement issued by the team and the WHL, which came hours after the story was published online, does not deny our reporting. It mentions inaccuracies but does not specify them. So we will continue to stand by our coverage, and update the story as it develops.

Under its new local ownership, The Citizen is emphatically pro-Prince George. That sometimes means we have to share news that comes as a shock, but is important to know. Our community is invested in our Cougars, and people deserve to know if something major like a sale and move is a possibility.

Hopefully, our coverage will encourage someone local to step up to keep the team here. Within a couple of hours of our story going live on our website, a petition was launched, and social media lit up. Some readers had suspicions that we might be full of it, but mostly we saw people expressing their love for the team and their hopes that the Cougars will stay here.

So, for the record: We don’t want to see the Cougars leave Prince George. They are an important part of our community. As fans, we shared in the excitement of the Cats’ recent successes, which included a thrilling playoff run toward an emotional end to the season. It’s a far cry from where the team was at when the current owners purchased it a decade ago. The Cougars gave us top-tier junior hockey and a reason to rally as a community.

Losing them to another market would be a serious bodycheck. We hope our coverage gets people worked up enough to prompt a community-focused push to keep the team here at the CN Centre.

In our story, we mentioned the possibility of a local buyer (who we talked to) stepping in. This is hopeful information. We all remember the difficulties of the team’s Brodsky years, and we remember the welcome news that a group of local owners had taken over the team. They took a batch of WHL leftovers and built a viable, winning franchise built around young players who will be with the Cougars for several years to come. We need someone who lives and breathes Prince George to continue in that role of sports leadership.

In the meantime – and based on the carefully worded statement issued by the team after our story broke – we know the Cougars will open their season at the CN Centre this fall. We should all be there. Buy season tickets or a game pack. Buy the merch. Sign the petition. Support our team.