The Wenatchee Wild have announced that they will relocate to Hidalgo, Texas for the 2013/14 NAHL season and revive the Rio Valley Killer Bees moniker. Home games will be played at the 5,500 seat State Farm Arena. Under Head Coach Bliss Littler’s tutelage the Wild advanced to the 2013 NAHL Robertson Cup National Championship game where they were defeated by the Amarillo Bulls.
The Killer Bees last took the ice as a member of the Central Hockey League during the 2011/12 season. The Bees built a strong following during their eight years in minor pro hockey. In their final season in Hidalgo the team averaged over 3,500 per game in attendance. The NAHL version of the Killer Bees will look to reach out to the community and pull those fans back into the State Farm Arena next season. “The area has a great hockey tradition and we believe that the region and the surrounding community will embrace and support the NAHL. We intend to keep a priority on being heavily involved in the community and know that the product we put on the ice will be entertaining and in an atmosphere that is family-friendly” said Bill Stewart, team president. “We are excited about the move to the Rio Grande Valley.”
The Killer Bees will move to Texas will increase the NAHL footprint in the state to six teams. They will join an NAHL South Division which currently includes the Amarillo Bulls, Corpus Christi Icerays, Odessa Jackalopes, Texas Tornado, Topeka Roadrunners and Wichita Falls Wildcats. Teams from the NAHL South have won seven of the last 10 NAHL Robertson Cup Championships, the addition of an organization the caliber of the Killer Bees (Wild) will only make the division stronger and much more competitive.
Hockey in the valley will reinvigorate past rivalries from previous CHL seasons as Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Odessa and Rio Grande Valley all played in the same division within the CHL. In the past several years numerous teams have abandoned the minor pro ranks and been replaced by US Hockey Tier II Junior A teams. The move allows teams to compete at a high level on the ice while reducing operating costs which have led to the demise of the minor pro franchises. Rumors persist of more minor pro cities eyeing a move to Juniors in the coming season.
The franchise need look no further than their former CHL rivals to see the kind of success that they can achieve with proper marketing and community out reach. All three teams rank in the top six in the NAHL in attendance with both Amarillo and Corpus Christi seeing average attendance increase by over 200 per game since moving to the NAHL.