Summerland’s Junior B hockey players are in second place in their division and have clinched a spot in the playoffs, but fan support remains low.
Gregg Wilson, co-owner and general manager of the Summerland Steam, said the team is three points out of first place in the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference: Okanagan Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“On the ice, it’s been great,” he said. “The team has really come together.”
Despite such a strong performance, Wilson is disappointed by the low attendance at the Steam’s home games.
The team is in the bottom three in the league in attendance, with an average of 153 people at each game.
In order to break even, the team needs an average of 300 people each game.
Without additional fan support, Wilson said the team must ask for more from its corporate sponsors.
The sponsors are Summerland IGA, Nesters Market and Murray’s GM. “The sponsors deserve a pat on the back,” he said.
Wilson is concerned about the future of the team and the future of junior hockey in Summerland if the fan support does not increase.
“This is the third chance for Summerland,” he said.
He added that the league has told him future requests for a team in Summerland will be rejected if the Steam folds because of low support.
“If the team doesn’t work out, Summerland will never get another team.”
Other communities have approached Wilson to buy the team, but Wilson wants to keep the Steam in Summerland.
Since the team started, he has worked to have a strong local presence on the ice.
Of the 23 players, only five are billeted. The rest are from the region and can live at home.
“We’re the most locally-based team in the league,” he said.
For next year, the team will have a presence in Summerland, but the longer future of the team is not yet known.
The team will hold its spring prospects camp in early April and its annual training camp at the end of August.
Some of the players who have been part of the Steam have later moved on to Junior A hockey.
Of the players on the roster at present, 12 are affiliated with Junior A teams and nine have already played in Junior A games.