Speculation WHL's Vancouver Giants might set sights on Surrey, if arena is built

Vancouver Giants' goalie Payton Lee, centre, covers the puck during first period WHL hockey action against the Calgary Hitmen in Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, Nov.29, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal
Vancouver Giants' goalie Payton Lee, centre, covers the puck during first period WHL hockey action against the Calgary Hitmen in Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, Nov.29, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal

This is highly speculation although, then again, so is property development, where junior hockey teams have been known to be used as a convenient wedge. The past few seasons have not been the best of times for the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants, whose fortunes on the ice and in the stands at Pacific Coliseum have trended downward since their Memorial Cup victory in 2007 and last third-round playoff appearance in 2010. 

As one of only two major junior teams that has the same geographical designation as a NHL club without being owned by the big-league club, the Giants have a challenge to compete for the live sports dollar. The news that a WHL-size "spectator arena" might be constructed in a convenient, public transit-accessible area of Surrey, B.C., has sparked some scuttlebutt that it might be a solution for the Giants.

From Steve Ewen (@SteveEwen):

Consider the news this week that Surrey is looking for parties who might be interested in creating a public/private partnership to build a new facility next to the Scott Road SkyTrain Station.

Technically, Surrey is looking at building a “spectator sport facility,” according to Coun. Bruce Hayne.

This is Canada. Bet heavy on it being an ice rink.

The Giants aren’t talking about this, and Hayne wasn’t getting into who Surrey has heard from already from, other than to say that there have been “multiple interested parties” in recent years.

... [Giants owner Ron] Toigo is a real estate guy first and foremost. And he’s won a Memorial Cup as an owner and hosted a world junior tournament. Spearheading the construction of a building and rebranding his franchise in it might be a challenge he is looking for. (Vancouver Province)

While this can be somewhat put under the umbrella of junior hockey's silly season, it should not be dismissed out of hand. Toigo's Giants, as alluded to above, are an anomaly as a standalone franchise in a NHL market. The Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings are owned by the Flames and Oil Kings, respectively. Winnipeg doesn't have major junior and the last attempt to put on in Montreal failed when the Juniors moved north in 2011 to become the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, where they have thrived, relatively.

The Mississauga Steelheads are the only OHL team left in the Greater Toronto Area and have had a long road to get traction. The OHL's Ottawa 67's are also unique since their owner also operates the CFL's Redblacks and pro soccer's Fury FC.

None of that means the Giants' deal with playing at 16,000-seat Pacific Coliseum is untenable. It just seems less than ideal when you look at the wider Canadian Hockey League landscape.

In any event, there might be some arena musical chairs to watch in B.C. over the next little while. Nanaimo also has an arena proposal before it. The WHL wants a second Vancouver Island franchise to cut down on teams making two-game trips to play the Victoria Royals,

If that could come with minimal relocation and without wrecking the nice geographical balance the WHL has with its 6/6/5/5 alignment of Manitoba/Saskatchewan, Alberta/eastern B.C., B.C. and U.S. teams, that would be ideal. It's likely no one wants to repeat how the Chilliwack Bruins' metamorphosis into the Royals went down in '11.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @naitSAYger.

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