The RRRink to house new team
After ending its relationship with the Southern Oregon Spartans two months ago, the Smith family, the owners of The RRRink, didn’t rest on their laurels when it came to filling the void.
In fact, they’ve already found a replacement.
The Western States Hockey League’s oldest and last founding team remaining, the Barrhead Bombers, are relocating from Alberta, Canada, to Medford, according to league commissioner Ron White.
White said everything is in line for the team to start playing when the WSHL’s 2021-22 season opens in late October, the first time a junior hockey team will have played a game in the Rogue Valley since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s sort of a natural fit (in Medford),” said White, who previously owned the Bombers before selling them to their current owners. “It’s a good location for a team such as ours and for our league. We really wanted to be there. … It’s a great building and I think we will do very well there with the team.”
As part of the relocation agreement, the local ownership in Alberta will keep the Bombers’ name and likeness, with the new Medford team — which previously played all but one of its seasons of existence in Long Beach, California, before moving to Canada prior to the pandemic — giving the WSHL an odd number of teams.
“Other than that, the team has packed its bags and left,” White said.
Because of that agreement, there’s a twist to the team relocating to Medford: Locals in the Rogue Valley will have the chance to submit names for consideration through the end of July, with a winner set to be selected in early August.
Potential name ideas can be submitted to Contact.SouthernOregonHockey@gmail.com, and the person who submits the winning name will receive a pair of season tickets.
“We’re literally moving the team to Medford,” White said, “and we’re going to select a name that has more identity to the community than the Bombers might have had.”
The Spartans officially moved out of The RRRink last month after co-owner Dylan Martin decided in May to opt out of the United States Premier Hockey League’s 2021-22 season due to the uncertainty of Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The contract between the two sides was set to officially expire at the end of July.
Martin previously said the Spartans are aiming to participate in the USPHL’s 2022-23 season, with hopes of building a new rink and team facility as part of a multi-venue project.
Once the partnership between the two sides ended, White immediately reached out to the Smith family.
Talks progressed quickly, and the result was a new team to play at the ice rink located in south Medford.
“The RRRink reached out to us and, because they knew from our previous conversations that the league had an interest in the site, we really didn’t want those guys to go dark with it,” White said. “That’s how it started, I immediately dropped what I was doing and flew there (to Medford) and met with the Smiths and here we are.”
White will be in the Rogue Valley this week to meet with a group of youth hockey representatives as well as volunteers that will be working with the team come the start of the fall season.
“We’re pounding the table to get as much done before the first of the month,” White said.
White said the new Medford team already has a head coach hired in Ty Smith, who has coaching experience throughout the WSHL in Oklahoma City and with the West Sound Warriors in Washington.
Smith, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was most recently an assistant coach with the Butte Cobras in Butte, Montana. He was Butte’s head coach from 2015-17.
White expects Smith to officially take the helm within the next week or two “and get things rolling from a local standpoint.”
“We know how to run a program, we know how to get things done and we know how to run a competitive program,” White added. “The Bombers have always been one of the leading teams in the league.”
Training camps around the WSHL will begin Oct. 1, which is three weeks later than normal as a result of the pandemic. The schedule change was made to help teams ensure they are able to fill their rosters with enough players since some European players are still unable to acquire the proper work visas needed to stay in the U.S. the entire season.
The schedule for the 2021-22 season has not been finalized.
“If you remember the old rosters of the Spartans in 2018, 2019 and 2020, they had a lot of European kids on the team,” White said. “Right now, the borders are closed for most of those countries. … We’re having to change our recruiting up a little bit until the border opens. We’ve programmed everything to hopefully have as many Europeans in the league as we’ve had historically, but everything right now is kind of a crapshoot.”
Reach Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.