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Merritt Centennials moving from BCHL to KIJHL

The Centennials were the longest continuously run franchise in the BCHL
Vernon Vipers centre Jiri Duda battles Merritt Centennials forward Michael Felsing for the puck in a 4-2 Vipers win Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. (Vernon Vipers photo)

The Merritt Centennials are now a part of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).

The Cents announced on Sunday that they are withdrawing from the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), and moving into the KIJHL, for the 2024-25 season.

Merritt’s expansion application to the junior A league was approved unanimously by the KIJHL’s Board of Governors. Brad Anstey and Daniel Schofield purchased the Centennials, marking the franchise’s move from public ownership to private.

The team will join the Bill Ohlhausen Division, taking the place of the Summerland Steam following that franchise’s relocation to Williams Lake.

“The Centennials have a rich history and this year celebrated their 51st consecutive season of continuous junior hockey in the City of Merritt,” says KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois, as the team had been the longest continuously run team in the BCHL.

“Brad and Daniel have a great vision for a successful and sustainable KIJHL franchise, and our Board of Governors was thrilled to see the tremendous support that exists within the community for a transition to our league.”

Games will continue to be played out of the 1,000 seat Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, as a new five-year lease was negotiated for the facility.

Since 1974-75, the Centennials have been a part of the Merritt community. Throughout their history, they have just one BCHL championship (in 1978). The franchise had recently struggled, winning just 75 games combined in the past five seasons.

“Our ownership group is excited to keep the Merritt Centennials hockey in the community with its most dedicated fans, sponsors, alumni, and volunteers,” said Brad Anstey.

“We guarantee our commitment to grow the Centennials brand while building a competitive team with the best of sporting cultures. We are proud to become a member of a league that provides development opportunities for local and provincial players to continue to pursue their hockey goals and dreams. We thank the City of Merritt and the KIJHL for this opportunity.”

The Centennials are in the BCHL postseason, and will play the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the first round.

More information, including season tickets, staff announcements and camp dates, will be announced later.

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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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