Skip to content

Quesnel confirmed: River Rush the newest KIJHL team

Quesnel entrepreneur Tracy Mero switching KIJHL teams and moving it to hometown

It’s official: Quesnel will once again be home to Junior hockey. The name of the new team is the Quesnel River Rush.

As was previously reported by Black Press, the KIJHL was in the process of approving a Quesnel franchise, pending approval by their board of governors. That approval, and it was unanimous among the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League operators, was announced today (Apr. 4).

The River Rush will not be a new franchise. It is coming upstream from Armstrong where they had been operating as the North Okanagan Knights since the 2009-10 season.

“With the addition of the River Rush, the KIJHL geographic footprint expands a further 120 kilometres north and provides the Cariboo with a third franchise in addition to the 100 Mile House Wranglers and Williams Lake Mustangs,” said league commissioner Jeff Dubois.

The move also involves an ownership transaction. The River Rush movement is under the new ownership of Quesnel businessman Tracy Mero. Until now Mero had been the owner of the KIJHL’s Kamloops Storm. That ownership is now being transferred to longtime Storm president and governor Matt Kolle.

“As a hockey parent and coach, it’s always been a dream of mine to bring locally-owned Junior-A hockey back to Quesnel,” said Mero. “I’ve seen the passion from this community over the years and I know how badly parents and kids have wanted to see higher calibre hockey back in this town so that players can stay and play close to home. We have a talented group of board members behind this franchise and so many great ideas to bring exciting events to Quesnel and make this team a success. We’re honoured to bring this dream alive for everyone and to collaborate with all our local clubs. See you on the ice.”

“The KIJHL is thrilled to be involved in the return of Junior-A hockey to Quesnel,” said Dubois. “We’ve been so excited to see the passion and enthusiasm that has been building throughout this process and we can’t wait to experience the incredible atmosphere when the team hits the ice this fall.”

The River Rush will play out of the 1,300-seat West Fraser Centre, which was built in 2017 and will immediately become “a premier facility in the KIJHL,” Dubois said.

The first member of Quesnel’s hockey operations staff is Dale Hladun, who has been hired as the team’s head coach and general manager. It is a familiar name to Quesnel hockey fans. Most recently, Hladun brings extensive KIJHL coaching and management experience to the River Rush, as he has previously held similar roles with the Princeton Posse (2005-2013), Fernie Ghostriders (2013-2014) and 100 Mile House Wranglers (2014-2024). In 2016, he led the Wranglers to KIJHL, Cyclone Taylor Cup (B.C. provincial) and Keystone Cup (Western Canadian) championships.

“I’m thrilled with the opportunity Mr. Mero and his organization have provided me to return to Quesnel and be a part of the River Rush hockey club,” says Hladun, who is known locally for his time coaching with the BCHL’s Quesnel Millionaires in the late 1990s. “I firmly believe the Quesnel River Rush will run a first class operation for players, our fan base and the north Cariboo, and that this organization will evolve to be among the flagship programs in the KIJHL.”

The North Okanagan Knights enjoyed their most successful season in 2012-13 when they advanced to the league finals before a five-game series loss to the Castlegar Rebels. They have had few winning seasons, in their history, but one of them was only in 2022-23 when the team went 22-16-0-6 and made it to the division finals in the playoffs.

The team was most recently owned by Dean Keller.

“The KIJHL would like to acknowledge the Keller family and all of the volunteers, billets, fans and sponsors who have contributed to 15 years of junior hockey in Armstrong,” says Dubois.

Further details regarding the River Rush franchise, including season ticket information, spring camp dates and locations, and additional staffing announcements will be released in the coming weeks.



Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
Read more