Although the announcement that Niverville has been awarded a Manitoba Junior Hockey League franchise may have come as a surprise to many, the truth is this is a venture and an endeavour that has been in the works for well over a decade.
It is not just Niverville that will derive the benefits from this new franchise but indeed the MJHL are also the beneficiaries as this franchise, one could predict, will develop into one of the leading franchises in the league. After all, they are patterning their business model after the Steinbach Pistons, who have evolved into not only the premier franchise in the MJHL, but many believe in the entire country.
One of those is Clarence Braun, better known as Clare to most, the former mayor of Niverville, the unabashed promoter of the community. "The Steinbach Pistons are the premier Junior ‘A’ franchise in Canada. We have had lengthy conversations with Grant Lazaruk (president of the Pistons) in our preparations leading up to this point."
And if you’re a junior hockey fan in these parts, the synergies between these two teams and the natural rivalries that will surely develop, will be a win-win for everyone.
Braun is leading the steering group that has been working on the project for some time now.
Last Thursday night, the MJHL Board of Governors approved a new franchise for Niverville.
Friday afternoon the announcement was made by the MJHL that the new team in Niverville would begin play in the 2022-23 season. Of course they will play in the community’s new 1,167 seat sports complex, currently called the Niverville Community Resource and Recreation Centre (CRRC), which will soon be renamed.
The $20 million dollar CRRC is nearing completion and will be opening up later this summer or early fall.
Niverville is booming, now with a population estimated at around 6,000, and should be able to support this new team in adequate numbers.
"Niverville is recognized as one of the fastest growing communities in the province and the MJHL is thrilled to bring a new organization into this community, while adding another first-class, state of the art facility to our league," said MJHL commissioner Kevin Saurette.
"We have been in ongoing discussions with this group for a number of years and are very confident that the community non-profit organization and the Town of Niverville will provide an ideal new home market for the MJHL going forward," said Saurette. "I would also like to recognize the significant commitment and effort of Clarence Braun, who was instrumental in helping bring a new MJHL franchise to Niverville."
Niverville mayor Myron Dyck said, ""On behalf of the Town of Niverville I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the MJHL to our community and to congratulate the group of local residents for their hard work in making their dream a reality today."
On behalf of the Niverville Junior ‘A’ hockey club, Braun noted in the official press release, "After considering this opportunity for some years, we are both excited and proud to be accepted as the new franchise into the MJHL. As we have been exploring entry into the MJHL, we have extended the opportunity for ownership and have seen many new shareholders added with the past few months. That opportunity will continue as well follow a plan to be ready for the 2022-23 MJHL season."
"As a shareholder group for this community owned, not for profit team, we are excited to be in the community we are in. We look forward to engaging with many hundreds of volunteers in the surrounding area as we put the various leadership teams into place in the weeks and months ahead."
Braun added, "I want to personally express great appreciation to Kim Davis, the former commissioner of the MJHL and present commissioner Kevin Saurette, who has been there for us at every turn."
The hockey team paid a $150,000 franchise fee to join the MJHL.
Braun says they currently have 30 shareholders in their group that have all put down a $2,500 deposit on a $10,000 commitment. He says they hope to add another 20 or so shareholders to that group.
In addition to Clare Braun, their steering and planning group also includes Carl Fast, Ray Dowse, Jeremy Braun, Kevin Lansard, Scott Wallace, Kerry Church, Faron Trippier and Brian Trottier.
Braun says with the business plan they have put forward, average attendance figures in the range of 400-600 would allow them to operate the team, which one would think would be easily attainable, especially in their new building.
Dowse, who was also involved in this venture from the very beginning along with Braun said, "This is just great for the community, it gives our kids something to aspire to and for the players on the hockey team to become part of our community."
Braun says they are going to be launching an effort within the community and the schools on Sept. 1 to name the new team.
He says they also hope to hire a coach and general manager later in the fall as they begin the process to get the team ready for play the next season. "I’m already getting calls," said Braun.
As far as a new team setting up shop just down the road from the Steinbach Pistons, Pistons’ general manager Paul Dyck says the new team in Niverville will benefit the Pistons. "It is beneficial to be so close, we will draw from each other’s fans for home games, it’s a natural rivalry, this area can accommodate both teams."