A second sports team in the last year is saying goodbye to Cochrane.
The Rockyview Silvertips Jr. B tier 1 lacrosse team has announced they will no longer call Totem One home and are packing their bags and heading to Airdrie.
Silvertips manager Darren Deitz says the club believes the move to a larger, more central location will help fortify their roster and open the door to attracting more sponsors and fans.
"It's something we have been talking about for the last couple of years, but it really came to the forefront during the past season," says Deitz. "It's nothing against Cochrane. Spray Lake has been great to work with, and we've had some important relationships with local businesses that helped sponsor us over the years."
"I'd like to think we had a great relationship with Spray Lake. They certainly bent over backward to help us out with our season."
He explains the Silvertips have a large draw area for players and Cochrane has proven to be a difficult commute for many of them, although some players are from the Cochrane area. The team practises twice a week at the SLS Centre and typically plays a couple of games a week.
"We found it to be a bit of a challenge to draft some of the players we maybe would have wanted to draft higher because their commutes are just a little bit too long. We're asking a lot from these players and families."
He says they see value in aligning with other Rocky View teams. Airdrie is home to both a senior B (Knights) and senior C (Mohawks) team, and it has a larger minor lacrosse base.
"When we looked at the younger side of the sport when it comes to kids playing in Rocky View minor lacrosse, a larger percentage of the players were coming out of the Airdrie area, so we found it a little bit of a challenge to get some of those younger kids and families out to our games. We had some great support from fans, but we think there's a bit of an opportunity to tap into the minor lacrosse community in the Airdrie area."
Deitz says it shouldn't be misconstrued as the Silvertips cutting their ties with Cochrane's lacrosse community.
"It's not that we're completely turning a blind eye to Cochrane because it's been an important part of our program, and we also have players on our team that our local to Cochrane as well, so we hope we're able to continue those relationships."
They will initially play out of the Plainsmen Arena and hope to move to Genesis Place later in the season. The Silvertips are also hosting the provincial playoffs in August 2024 and hope to hold them at Genesis Place.
Airdrie has a massive new recreation centre in the works, something that could benefit the club. Deitz says Airdrie officials arranged a meeting with the planning group.
"From a long-term basis, we'll be looking at a permanent facility [in Airdrie]. Whether it's the new facility or one of their existing facilities is still to be determined."
They had at one point in discussions with Spray Lake officials about making the Cochrane Arena their home base, but it wasn't fit, based on the timing of their season.
The Silvertips have played exclusively at the SLS Centre since 2018. Before that, they split their home game schedule between Cochrane and Airdrie.
On the surface, it's a quiet time for junior B teams of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL). In the background, though, things are starting to percolate for the coming season. The junior B Tier 1 league will soon be holding its annual meeting, and its draft is typically held in early to mid-February.
Deitz and head coach Tyler Waycott remain in contact with players in the off-season, particularly the ones playing in both Canadian and American university leagues. They don't typically return until a few games into the season.
"We've been having half-hour Zoom meetings and we've chatting with guys in various states and provinces, catching up with them to see how they're doing in school with their lacrosse programs."
The Silvertips are coming off their best regular season yet. They topped their division for the second consecutive year and for the first time had the best record in the entire 15-team, four-division league.
Playoffs, though, weren't kind. They were upset by the Red Deer Rampage in the divisional final. The Rampage entered playoffs with a 9-10 regular season and were winless against the Silvertips up until that point.
"The success didn't quite carry over to the playoffs, but with that, we certainly learned lots and the guys are hungry to get back on the floor for next year," says Deitz.
Some shrewd draft picks and trades helped strengthen their roster over the past few seasons and coincided with the return of Head Coach Waycott. They showed promising signs in their shortened 2021 exhibition season.
What impact that will have on the Jr. B Tier II Rockyview Rage is uncertain at this time. The Rage have been jointly based out of Cochrane and Airdrie since formed in 2018 and is also coming off their best season ever.
Head coach Reese Sellwood says they are weighing their options. He says the ice isn't being taken off Totem One in the spring because of maintenance scheduled for Totem Two.
"So, we're going to be at either Totem 2 or Plainsmen in Airdrie," says Sellwood.
In the spring, it was announced the U17 AAA Airdrie-Cochrane Avalanche hockey program was moving to Airdrie after calling Cochrane home since its inception.
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