SPHL ends as new rink begins

Players at a game on the outdoor rink last year. Photo SPHL.
Players at a game on the outdoor rink last year. Photo SPHL.








UPDATED DEC. 13 2016:

The Sun Peaks Hockey League (SPHL) will now operate for its ninth season, but players can expect some changes.

SPHL organizer Mike Billheimer said players will pay $100 instead of $40 and play for eight weeks regular season and two weeks of playoffs in addition to possible away games at nearby resorts.

Players will also play five on five instead of four on four to compensate for the larger rink.

Billheimer has applied for a municipal grant to cover costs of purchasing new equipment for player’s to borrow, league shirts/jerseys and ice time. He is also working to raise funds from local businesses to purchase a trailer that would act as an administrative space during games and storage.

The season can proceed due to ice time being scheduled and arranged and raising the price for players.

Anyone over the age of 18 can register at guest services or contact Billheimer through the SPHL Facebook page.

The Sun Peaks Hockey League (SPHL) would be starting their ninth season at Sun Peaks this winter but the puck won’t drop this year.

SPHL organizer Mike Billheimer said delays in the new rink’s construction resulted in a lack of information to arrange funding and sponsorships for the upcoming season.

“Delays have put it to a point where it is too late to make anything of value,” said Billheimer.

“We need time to figure it out before it starts.”

Use of the new ice rink will come with an increased cost. Three to four hours of ice time is needed weekly and the hourly rates at similar rinks in the area range from $130 to $190. Insurance costs for a league at the new rink have been quoted starting at $18 per player.
Similar leagues in nearby Kamloops cost hundreds of dollars per player compared to the SPHL’s cost of $40 per player.

Previously the ice time and insurance cost were provided by Sun Peaks Resort LLP as a way to support the league for their staff. The new rink will be managed by the municipality.

The cost provided each player with admittance to games at the original outdoor ice rink where games were staffed by volunteers and had a large amount of equipment available for use free of charge. The fees were put towards equipment and prizing for players.

Billheimer said the cost necessary to cover the increase in ice and insurance costs is too much to pass on to players who are resort staff who have joined the league for fun and as an alternative activity to the bar scene.

“We’ve got a group of people who have been involved with us year after year,” said Billheimer.

He added many resort staff are presented with the league as a benefit of choosing to work in Sun Peaks instead of other resort communities which is now no longer the case.

Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine said it wouldn’t be fair to other groups and community members if SPHL was given free ice time.

“We have to be fair,” Raine said. “Property owners shouldn’t have to cover any losses. We can’t keep operating cost to a minimum with free leagues.”

While prices have not been released, Raine said they will be the same for tourists and locals and will be at a level everyone can afford.

He added the rink was an expensive project for the municipality, topping over $1 million, and there’s a chance that fees may not cover operating costs even without providing free ice time for the league.

“There is a cost involved,” Raine said. “We will work with anybody who is wanting to use the ice and willing to pay a reasonable fee for ice time.”

Raine said he is hopeful the rink will still see some sort of local league for its first season.

“I suspect there will be a lot of demand. I would hope there would still be a hockey league,” said Raine.

Billheimer said he hopes SPHL will be able to return by the next season and continue to grow. He would like to see it open to all community members rather than only to resort staff members and to continue to play against leagues at other resorts.

The 2015-16 season saw 116 players, forming more than 10 teams, take to the ice to battle for top spot.