Cranbrook scores a new hockey team

The Cranbrook Bucks will officially become the 18th member of the BC Hockey League

by Kerry Shellborn
Nathan Lieuwen, majority owner; Lee Pratt, Cranbrook mayor; Chris Hebb, BCHL commissioner; and Scott Niedermayer, a Hall of Fame NHL defenceman and part owner of the new Junior Hockey franchise, stand in front of the new Cranbrook Bucks logo at Western Financial Place.

Nathan Lieuwen, majority owner; Lee Pratt, Cranbrook mayor; Chris Hebb, BCHL commissioner; and Scott Niedermayer, a Hall of Fame NHL defenceman and part owner of the new Junior Hockey franchise, stand in front of the new Cranbrook Bucks logo at Western Financial Place. — Kerry Shellborn photo

“When the deer are so local they use the crosswalk, the name just makes sense,” quipped Adam Cracknell in a tweet shortly after Cranbrook’s newest hockey team, the Cranbrook Bucks, was unveiled at its new home at Western Financial Place.

Cracknell, a former Kootenay Ice player and minority owner of the new team, wasn’t in town for the big reveal as he is still playing professional hockey in China. But a former Kootenay Ice alum and current majority owner, Nathan Lieuwen, was on hand and all smiles as he officially announced that Cranbrook would soon be icing a new hockey team.

“We are pleased to add Cranbrook as the 18th member of the BC Hockey League,” said BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb, who was also on hand for the announcement. “The city already has a rich hockey history, and we are excited to see them add to that legacy and bring BCHL hockey to another great community in our province.”

Hebb is correct that hockey runs deep in Cranbrook. The largest community in the East Kootenay has boasted a local hockey team since 1965 when the Cranbrook Royals, a senior men's team, joined the Western International Hockey League. Six years later, the Cranbrook Colts, a Junior B hockey team, joined the tradition and lasted until 1991 when the Edmonton Ice moved to Cranbrook and became the Kootenay Ice. 

The Cranbrook Bucks will have big shoes to fill as all three past Cranbrook hockey teams at one point won the following championships:

1974—Cranbrook Colts, Cyclone Taylor Cup Champions (The Cyclone Taylor Cup tournament serves as the British Columbia Provincial Junior B Hockey Championship.)
1975—Cranbrook Colts, Cyclone Taylor Cup Champions
1981-82—Cranbrook Royals, WIHL Champions (The Western International Hockey League— WIHL—was a senior-level ice hockey league that featured teams from the Western United States and Western Canada.)
1982—Cranbrook Royals, Allan Cup Champions (The Allan Cup is the trophy awarded annually to the national senior amateur men's ice hockey champions of Canada and has been handed out every year since 1909.)
1982—Cranbrook Colts, Cyclone Taylor Cup Champions
1984—Cranbrook Colts, Cyclone Taylor Cup Champions
1985—Cranbrook Colts, Cyclone Taylor Cup Champions
1986—Cranbrook Colts, Cyclone Taylor Cup Champions
1987—Cranbrook Colts, Cyclone Taylor Cup Champions
1995—Cranbrook Colts, Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League Champions (The Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League was a Canadian Junior A ice hockey league in British Columbia.)
1997—Cranbrook Colts, Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League Champions
1998—Cranbrook Colts, Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League Champions
1999-2000—Kootenay Ice, WHL Champions (The Western Hockey League—WHL—is a major junior ice hockey league based in Western Canada and the Northwestern United States.)
2001-02—Kootenay Ice, WHL Champions
2002—Kootenay Ice, Memorial Cup Champions (The Memorial Cup trophy symbolizes the championship of the Canadian Hockey League.)
2010-11—Kootenay Ice, WHL Champions

It may take the Bucks a few seasons to reach those lofty heights, but they are off on the right foot by bringing in legendary Cranbrook native and Hall of Fame NHL defenceman Scott Niedermayer as one of the owners. Niedermayer was on hand for the Bucks announcement, and when asked why he supported Lieuwens’ ownership group, he said,  “This is my home and I grew up here as everyone knows and when Nathan got in touch with me . . . with his passion for the sport and trying to do this (bring a team to Cranbrook) it made it very, very easy for me to say ‘yes.’ ”

The Cranbrook Bucks is the 18th franchise of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), which has teams in 17 communities throughout B.C. and into the Pacific Northwest. Their closest competitor and only other team in the Kootenays is the Trail Smoke Eaters. The addition of Cranbrook will trigger a realignment of the current BCHL divisions, which will be announced at a later date.

For more information about the Cranbrook Bucks, you can visit www.cranbrookbucks.ca.

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