Senior double ‘AA’ hockey action has found a new home in Eckville – pending league approval.
Local Eckville boy Reed Watts, who is currently a defenseman for the Big Valley Oil Kings of the North-Central Hockey League, is looking to purchase the team he plays for and then relocate the team to its new home at the Eckville arena.
“The original deal was going to be a conglomerate of former and current players – now it will just be myself with share options,” Watts said. “The deal will be finalized today (June 21)or tomorrow and then it will be sent to the league president and then out to the other teams who vote on approval.
“There is a strong chance it will go through.”
According to Watts, this deal is not only a good deal for Eckville, it is also a good deal for the league.
“The deal brings the team closer and more central to the league,” he said, adding that travel times for teams in Slave Lake and Bonnyville will be much shorter.
Although not unheard of, having a single-owner team in NCHL is quite rare.
“Buying a team is interesting because the majority of the teams in this league are committee owned,” he said. “The teams are very tied to the towns and that is the point of them.”
The Town of Eckville, according to Watts, has been instrumental the purchase and relocation of the Oil Kings.
“Everyone at the Town has been very accommodating,” he said. “They have been very helpful with the process.”
Watts, a current player for the Oil Kings, sees a different future in hockey for himself after becoming an owner in the NCHL.
“I would love to be able to recruit myself out of a roster spot,” he said. “I do love playing so it will be an interesting transition.”
He added that the core group of guys coming into Eckville are supportive of his choice to move but will definitely give him a hard time in the locker room about being a player-owner.
“It shouldn’t affect anything. I’ll have the title but that will be it,” he said. “In the end, it’s all about who we put on the ice.
“I’ve been sitting down with the core and we are excited to do things with the Town and with Minor Hockey.”
He added that after growing up in Eckville, he knows that the town has “awesome fans” and that the “community will get behind it.”
The team will not be a regular expansion situation, as a top tier team has already been put in place in Big Valley.
“It will make for good hockey,” he said. “The team we are bringing over is a mix of former junior ‘A’ and junior ‘B’ guys and even some western leaguers (WHL)
“We even has a former NHLer last year.”
He added that he is bringing a great group of human beings that look forward to accomplishing a lot in Eckville.
“It starts with the move and getting some excitement going,” said Watts.