The Victoria Grizzlies and Victoria Shamrocks lacrosse have a unique relationship. Both teams have shared The Q Centre since the arena opened. The Grizzlies play during the fall and winter months while the Shamrocks play during the spring and summer months.
Their relationship stretches back to when the Grizzlies joined the BCHL as the Salsa in the mid-1990s. The two teams shared the old Memorial Arena until its demolition in the early 2000s.
Both teams coexist in a large Greater Victoria sports market. It’s a market that includes the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League. They also coexist with four junior B teams in the Greater Victoria region.
There are also two former teams that the Grizzlies and Shamrocks shared The Q Centre with – the Sooke/Westshore Stingers junior B team and the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings. Both these teams were short-lived but had an impact on the Grizzlies and Shamrocks.
Whether it be scheduling conflicts, delayed construction projects, or off-ice controversies, these teams definitely affected the Grizzlies and Shamrocks. To understand how I want to highlight several examples from the last 20 years.
The first example involves a construction project. The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre was the replacement for the aging Memorial Arena and was built on the same site as the old rink.
Before they moved to The Q Centre, the Salsa played at Archie Browning Arena in Esquimalt. The arena formerly hosted the BCHL’s Esquimalt Buccaneers and Victoria Warriors. It’s been home to the Victoria Cougars junior B team since 1998.
Construction and scheduling
The Salsa and Shamrocks moved into the shiny new Bear Mountain Arena in Colwood in 2004. However, in the fall of 2004, the rink also hosted another team.
Graham Lee of RG Properties bought the franchise rights to the Baton Rouge Kingfish of the ECHL and brought them to Victoria. The Victoria Salmon Kings were to be Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena’s new tenant once construction finished. The problem was, construction delays meant it wouldn’t be ready for the Salmon Kings’ first season.
Instead, the Salmon Kings played their first season at The Q Centre while sharing it with the Salsa. That first season of 2004-05 saw the Salmon Kings win only 15 games.
Eventually, Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre finished construction in the spring of 2005. Despite being the main occupants, the Salmon Kings were actually not the first team to play in the arena.
The Shamrocks were hosting the Mann Cup finals at The Q Centre that September. At the same time, the Salsa was about to open their regular season in the BCHL. As a result, the Salsa’s home opener was relocated and they played the first hockey game at Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
After announcing the return of the Western Hockey League to Victoria in 2011, the Salmon Kings ceased operations. The Royals arrived and have been in downtown Victoria ever since.
Stingers players were frustrated with team management and protested their lack of ice time before a game against the Victoria Cougars. They changed out of their gear after warmup and refused to come back out.
Under threat of forfeit, they did play and lost the game 14-0. Three of Westshore’s top players were released afterward, including its starting goalie along with the Stingers’ captain.
Stingers leave and Wolves arrive
After those three were released, the team had too few players to play games. The league stepped in and suspended the franchise in November 2010. Overall, the team wasn’t successful on the ice and only won 10 games in six seasons.
A much more successful junior B team took the Stingers place a couple of years later. The Westshore Wolves were founded in 2012 and have been in Colwood ever since.
The Wolves are showing how good ownership and management can build a long-lasting team. In eight seasons, the team has 188 wins.
With COVID-19 restrictions, there’s a buffer space between ice times now. The Grizzlies and Wolves have to be careful about how they share The Q Centre. The Royals regular season won’t begin until January 8, 2021 at the earliest.
As for the Shamrocks, their 2020 season was cancelled by the Western Lacrosse Association. The WLA and Major Series Lacrosse commissioners concluded “it would not be possible or responsible to play box lacrosse in 2020.”
When the Shamrocks can play lacrosse again, it will mark the continuation of the relationship between them and the Grizzlies and the building they share in Colwood.