On Tuesday, May 3, a ‘Giant’ footprint left its mark on Langley’s sports landscape.
During a press conference at the Langley Events Centre, the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants made it official: they’re moving to the LEC from Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, starting in the 2016/17 season.
This will be the Giants’ second go-round at the LEC, after playing six games in the arena bowl (with a capacity of 5,276) between Jan. 30 and Feb. 14 of 2010, with the Pacific Coliseum being used for the Winter Olympics.
The LEC was home to the junior A Langley Rivermen, who play in the B.C. Hockey League, but with the Giants relocating to Langley, the Rivermen will be moving to the George Preston Recreation Centre, starting next season.
The Vancouver Stealth also call the LEC home, and begin their next National Lacrosse League season in January 2017.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Langley Advance reporter Troy Landreville caught up with Giants majority owner Ron Toigo to chat about the historic move.
LA – What was the determining factor in the Giants’ decision to relocate to Langley?
RT – “I don’t know if there was one, real, defining factor that made us come to this conclusion. I think we put a lot of time and research into it. When you look at everything collectively, it just made sense.”
LA – Were demographics, in terms of more families living in this area, a factor, as well?
RT – “Very much so – absolutely. A lot of our base has always been built on being affordable, family entertainment and there’s an awful lot of young families in that area. That part of Metro Vancouver is where everybody goes to raise their families. Vancouver has just become more difficult to get to on a regular basis and there’s a lot of things going on in the city, where I think we’ll be the No. 1 entertainment [option] in the Valley. All those things played into it. Also, the Langley Events Centre really came to us to make it work. They put together a heck of a proposal. The improvements they’ve done there by adding onto the parking, they’re going to add another exit onto 200th [Street], and they’re going to have a professional company manage the parking. The logistics of getting there [to the LEC] is a lot easier than it was five years ago and literally, you’re within half an hour of probably a million-and-a-half people. Just overall, we were ready for a change, and to have a building that’s full on a regular basis, the ambiance of that, I think is good for the team.”
LA – That leads to the next question: are you confident that the Giants will be able to fill the building, most nights?
RT – “Yes.”
LA – Do you believe that’s because of a hunger to watch the highest level of junior hockey available?
RT – “Well it is, but it’s also the amount of people who live in the area. It’s an easy access for them to get to. We’ve done professional polling and even when we cut it in half, it still showed a significant number of people would be coming to the games. We just think the support is there to make it work. At the end of the day we also have to be a good hockey team. We haven’t been a good hockey team but we really believe we’re just around the corner. We’ve had some awful high draft picks over the last couple years and that, with the right coach, we think, will turn [us] into a good hockey team and with being [in] a smaller, louder building, we think the energy… our guys will build off of that and it will certainly help with our home ice advantage.”
LA – Will key forwards Tyler Benson and Ty Ronning be back with the team next season?
RT – “They’ll definitely be back. Benson is gonna be rested up and be ready to have the year that he expected to have this year. I think he’s got a shot at being if not the best player in the league, certainly one of them. And, well, Ty is just going to get better every year. His training, his work ethic is second to none. At the beginning of the year, it didn’t look like he was going to get drafted and now he’s going to certainly go in the middle rounds.”
LA – Do you expect to have a coach and GM in place soon?
RT – “By the end of the month is more realistic. We’ve got lots of people we’re talking to and we’re very confident we’re going to have a high quality GM and coach before the season starts.”
LA – Finally, do you feel the Giants can co-exist with the Vancouver Stealth and help each other in some aspects?
RT – “By all means. The excitement we’ll bring to the building and some of the improvements that will be going into the building will benefit the Stealth.”