The Fort Nelson Yeti have been turned away again from the North Peace Hockey League for the upcoming 2014 season.
In a press release on Sunday, May 4th, the league announced that in a vote held between all the teams in good standing, the Yeti did not receive the necessary five votes to gain entry into the league.
The NPHL's eight teams participated in the vote including the Dawson Creek Canucks, Falher Pirates, Fort St. John Flyers, Grande Prairie Athletics, Grimshaw Huskies, High Prairie Regals, Manning Comets, and Spirit River Rangers.
It was the second year in a row that the Yeti had not received enough support to join the league.
League president Jack McAvoy said over the phone on Monday the issue was again largely related to the increased travel it would mean by adding a team in Fort Nelson.
"The only problem being with it is travel and distance. That's the only thing people don't want," he said.
The president explained that after the proposal was presented to the league the teams were given a few weeks to think about it before they came back to vote last week.
"Fort Nelson came to our meeting in the spring in Fairview and they applied to get back into the league again. They had their proposal and the teams listened to it. We gave the teams two weeks to think about it and decide for sure then the vote came back and they were not accepted into the league again," McAvoy said.
Former president and current General Manager and captain of the Yeti, Ryan Carter knew prior to presenting the proposal that some teams had issues with the travel, but believes the organization but their best foot forward this time around.
"Before I presented the proposal I spoke with the president and he voiced the concerns about adding a team with the travel. And being voted down last year we knew it was going to be an uphill battle for us," he said.
The Yeti made some alterations to the proposal from last year to this year and felt those changes warranted more consideration from the teams.
"We changed our proposal a bit, monetarily offsetting travel costs by the kilometer so teams that were further away from us would actually get more towards their travel. They'll never see a stronger proposal where a team from Grand Prairie could come up here at zero cost," Carter said.
Although Carter noted the new proposal gained more interest than last year, it still wasn't enough to get the five votes.
"We did have some support in the meeting, I felt there was more support this year than last for us, but in my opinion from the teams that weren't really supporting it would only come up here once every four years," he said.
"So there's a little bit of frustration on our side with the votes. The votes that voted us down wouldn't even have to come up here on a regular basis."
The proposal also involved each team traveling to Fort Nelson once a year while teams from the east only had to make the trip once every four years.
The results of the vote will not be released but according to Fort St. John Flyers president Paul van Nostrand travel was a continued issue for teams throughout the proposal process.
"It was predominantly about travel. A lot of the teams, even on a trial basis weren't interested in making the trip up there and didn't think that they would get guys to be able to go up there. So that's the biggest issue," he said.
McAvoy would have liked to see the league expand but for most teams that distance is too great.
"It's nothing against Fort Nelson it's too bad that they are up there that far away and they can't find a league to play in but it just isn't feasible for teams over here to do it," he said.
Carter countered by explaining that a team from Edmonton travelled to Fort Nelson 14 hours by bus last year and is more than willing to make the trip again.
"We had a team come from Edmonton during the holidays and they had a great time. They would like to come again actually. And they rode the bus for about 14 hours to get here," he said.
The Flyers played two exhibition games in Fort Nelson last year and saw some potential advantages to the addition, but also understood the hesitation from other teams.
"We went up and played two games there in January and it was terrific. They treated us very well there and covered all of our costs. They had in the neighborhood of 500 people at the games," Nostrand said.
"Senior hockey is pretty popular up there, so from that aspect it was a great trip but of course we're the closest team to them it's an easier fit for us than many."
After putting what they believed to be their best proposal on the table, the Yeti have no further plans to try and enter the NPHL and will continue to operate as a independent team.
"It would have to be them to approach us if they lose any more teams. We have a model as an independent team where we play exhibition games and we can still play in provincials, " Carter explained.
"Our franchise is really strong, we have huge fan support and huge sponsorship in town. We put our best proposal forward two years in a row. We're going to hope to host the Coy Cup here, if not this year than next year. So we have some plans for our team and our existence doesn't base on joining the North Peace Hockey League."
© Copyright Alaska Highway News