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Nathan Lieuwen Leading Family Focused Cranbrook Bucks Franchise

The Cranbrook Bucks will take to the ice in 2020 out of Western Financial Place, as a local hockey icon leads the new BCHL franchise.

Nathan Lieuwen, the former Kootenay Ice legend is the Majority Owner and President of the Cranbrook Bucks, as the 28-year-old looks to reignite a fire that was seemingly put out when the Ice and the WHL vacated Cranbrook for Winnipeg.

“Obviously, a year ago, when things kind of became clear what was happening, it really really hurt and it really stung and I refused to let Cranbrook fall in respects to their hockey team and I really was passionate about making sure that the right team came here with the right people behind it,” Lieuwen told MyEastKootenayNow.com.

The 2011 WHL Playoff MVP led the Kootenay Ice to the Memorial Cup that season, playing 178 games in his career with the Ice before pursuing his NHL dream. Stints in the ECHL and AHL eventually led Lieuwen to get the call to the NHL in 2014 with the Buffalo Sabres, who had drafted him 167th overall in 2011.

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Unfortunately, a concussion would end Lieuwen’s season after just seven games in the NHL, and he would never make the jump again as he would play a few more seasons in the AHL before eventually retiring in 2017 as a result of the injury.

Looking for a fresh start Lieuwen solidified his family life in Cranbrook, soon changing his NHL dream to a dream of owning a BCHL franchise that would bring back hockey to a community recovering from its own wound of losing its WHL franchise after 21 seasons.

“I love this community, I love this town, I love the hockey fans, I obviously moved here for a reason, we love the people, we love the small community and there’s so many good people here and that’s a big reason why we’re here,” said Lieuwen, who began to explore Junior A options for Cranbrook after the Ice announced their relocation.

Inquiring with the BCHL, Lieuwen was joined by Scott Niedermayer and Adam Cracknell, as the trio fully pursued the opportunity to become the league’s 18th franchise.

“It was a lot of back and forth with the league, many hoops to jump through, a lot of documentation, a lot of research, a lot of analysis that they kind of require before we get anywhere with them and then prove that we can run a good franchise and they were really pleased with what we brought to them,” Lieuwen told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “It was really important for me to bring in the right people and obviously Scott and Adam were two of the very, very right people and then obviously our other partners were key players with their experience.”

On October 8, 2019, the Cranbrook Bucks officially joined the BCHL, as the City of Cranbrook also signed a lease and endorsed a lease of Western Financial Place to the new franchise.

“The city already has a rich hockey history and we are excited to see them add to that legacy and bring BCHL hockey to another great community in our province,” said Chris Hebb, Commissioner of the BCHL at the time of the announcement.

“Having a BCHL franchise showcasing an exciting brand of hockey will be a great addition to the economic well-being of the City,” added Lee Pratt, Mayor of Cranbrook. “Nathan and his group, along with City staff have worked closely together these last few months to bring this great entertainment to the citizens at an affordable price. We welcome the Bucks to Cranbrook and look forward to many years of exciting hockey.”

With their official offices unveiled at Western Financial Place, the Cranbrook Bucks are now moving forward with their search for the right hockey operations staff, which includes the Head Coach and General Manager positions.

“It’s more important that we get the right person than a person,” said Lieuwen. “We’re willing to take our time to make sure we find that right person.”

Lieuwen said it’s imperative that they make the correct choices early on so they can lay the foundation for a great franchise in the BCHL for decades to come.

“It’s important to build a franchise, not just a team, not just a staff, we’re trying to build a legacy here to be a great franchise and reputation is important. I think bringing in people that have integrity, that do things the right way, that have a passion for kids and the game is exactly where we need to start and we need to build off that.”

While the team searches for its hockey personnel, the Bucks are taking deposits on season tickets, for those that were previous season ticket holders with the Kootenay Ice.

“Right now people can save their existing seats at Western Financial Place, as long as they put a deposit down before December 20th, seats that they’ve had previously will stay theirs and then we’ll launch season ticket sales in February.”

Pricing for season tickets is $350 for adults and $330 for seniors, while students or children over the age of 10 can get season seats for $160. Lieuwen said they wanting to be as family-focused as possible as all children 10 years and under will have free admission to games. Ticket prices at the door will be $16 for an adult, $14 for a senior over 65, and $9 for a child or student.

The Cranbrook Bucks officially begin play in the BCHL for the 2020/2021 season and will trigger a realignment of the league’s current Island, Mainland, and Interior Divisions, which will be announced at a later date.

More: Cranbrook Bucks Website (Cranbrook Bucks)

More: British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL)

The Cranbrook Bucks office and store at Western Financial Place. (Bradley Jones, MyEastKootenayNow.com staff)
The Cranbrook Bucks office and store at Western Financial Place. (Bradley Jones, MyEastKootenayNow.com staff)
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