The Muskoka Lumber Community Centre in Bracebridge will be home to the Muskoka Bears when it opens in the summer of 2024.
Town council agreed to a five-year lease with the Junior C team. It will start on Aug. 1, 2024 and end on May 31, 2029. The agreement could be extended another five years if some conditions are met.
The initial agreement will see the team pay $24,000 for the first season plus $1,200 to rent the team room and office space.
According to a report submitted to the town’s General Committee on Nov. 7 by Cindy O’Regan, Director of Recreation, the team will play most of its home games on Friday after 6 p.m. with two practices during the week
“This is a very exciting opportunity for our community to see the return of Junior C hockey,” said Mayor Rick Maloney.
Brothers Dave and Ken Veitch Jr. brought the idea to council. Ken told the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom in Aug. 2023 that when the pair heard about the Muskoka Lumber Community Centre, they felt it made sense to bring the team back.
The former Bears team disbanded in 1982. There hasn’t been a Junior C hockey team in Bracebridge since.
Maloney said he’s spoken to the brothers and was left impressed. “They bring a lot of expertise to the table, they bring a lot of understanding of hockey but they also bring a lot of understanding about the community,” he said. “That’s an important piece to note.”
Coun. Barry Hammond, who wasn’t part of the conversation during the Nov. 7 General Committee meeting because of a conflict of interest, is part of the team’s leadership group.
Maloney clarified with O’Regan about possible issues – if any – the town may run into.
“The league that this particular organization is in is governed by the Ontario Hockey Association,” explained O’Regan. The process for the Bears to join the league was “quite rigorous.” She added that the Bears are a registered not-for-profit so that is another set of rules they have to follow. “They are very dedicated to the community and want to make this work,” said O’Regan.
The Bears are approved to play in the Provincial Junior Hockey League starting in the 2024/25 season. They will play alongside teams like the Huntsville Otters and Orillia Terriers.