Seattle’s Dylan Guenther skates against the Winnipeg Ice in the 2022-2023 WHL Championship series at the ShoWare Center in Kent. The Winnipeg franchise is moving to Wenatchee for the 2023-2024 season. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Seattle’s Dylan Guenther skates against the Winnipeg Ice in the 2022-2023 WHL Championship series at the ShoWare Center in Kent. The Winnipeg franchise is moving to Wenatchee for the 2023-2024 season. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Kent-based T-Birds to get new WHL opponent in Wenatchee Wild

League relocates franchise from Winnipeg to Central Washington

The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds will have a new opponent next season in the Wenatchee Wild.

The Western Hockey League (WHL) announced Friday, June 16 that the Winnipeg (Manitoba) Ice franchise had been sold and relocated to Wenatchee and will operate under the new ownership of David White of the California-based Shoot the Puck Foundation, according to the WHL website.

The T-Birds defeated Winnipeg this season in the WHL Championship Series.

Wenatchee will join the U.S. Division that includes Seattle, Everett, Tri-Cities, Spokane and Portland for the 2023-2024 season that starts in the fall.

The sale and relocation of the Winnipeg franchise has received the approval of the WHL Board of Governors and is effective immediately, according to the WHL. The relocation to Wenatchee will allow the WHL to balance its Western and Eastern Conferences with 11 member teams in each conference starting next season.

“Unfortunately, multiple attempts by the Ice ownership to construct an arena facility of acceptable WHL standards in Winnipeg, based on the agreed upon timeframes, were unsuccessful, leading to the relocation to Wenatchee,” according to a WHL statement.

Wenatchee began junior hockey league play in 2008 in the North American Hockey League, according to the Wenatchee World website. White purchased the team in 2013 and in 2015 the Wild joined the British Columbia Hockey League.

“We are very excited as an organization to join the Western Hockey League,” said White, according to a story on the Wenatchee World website. “Our vision has always been to operate with the highest level of standards for our players, and we have a responsibility to develop players to the best of our ability and prepare them for the next level. For our players, our community, and our organization, this is an incredible opportunity to provide the greatest overall experience in our great sport. The state of Washington is a great hockey state at all levels. We have a home now with an American division that finally provides us with the long-term sustainability we have been searching for.”

The Ice played just four seasons in Winnipeg. According to the Winnipeg Free Press website, the organization was supposed to build a new arena for the team — part of the terms of the purchase of the Ice and moving the team from Cranbrook B.C., to Winnipeg — but never did, instead hosting games at Wayne Fleming Arena on the University of Manitoba campus.

Winnipeg was home to the Warriors of the WHL in the early 1980s before that franchise moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

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