The Eckville Eagles have announced they will be relocating to Lacombe this season.
Team Co-owner/Manager Reed Watts said moving the team to Lacombe was more difficult than he thought.
“I knew it would be a task but I didn’t think we would be rejected by the league,” he said.
The request to move the senior AA North Central Hockey League team was initially turned down earlier this summer by the league and Hockey Alberta, however, a subsequent review during league meetings this fall led to an approval.
“In June, we didn’t have Hockey Alberta support because we weren’t aware we needed to use them for a relocate. In the fall, we had their support and they were critical to helping us move,” he said.
Watts said his group will continue to run the team in Lacombe — with some coordination from the group who ran the AAA Lacombe Generals. The team will not play for the Allan Cup, which is a AAA trophy and requires intent, which the Eagles do not have.
The team will continue to play under the Eckville Eagles name until a new name is decided and is approved by the league and Hockey Alberta.
“We have narrowed it down to either the Generals or the Merchants. The Merchants are a historical name and the Generals are obviously a popularity thing,” he said.
The Eagles will play their first game on Oct. 12 in Westlock. The rest of the schedule has not been released.
Watts said it is awesome as a team to move to Lacombe, but is personally bittersweet for him — who grew up and played minor hockey in Eckville.
“There is a high level of excitement. We have an agreement with the City to use the room that the Generals and the City built,” he said.
Watts added the move is not an indictment on Eckville.
“The upside of Lacombe is so high that it was almost impossible to say no,” he said.
Watts said the Eagles are looking to piggy-back off the success and popularity of the former AAA Generals group and intends to field a roster of new and returning players.
“We want to get back to our winning ways. Last year was a down year, but we are hopeful we can duplicate our regular season success and finally punch a ticket to provincials,” he said.