WHL approves Edmonton club

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Finally, the provincial capital will have major junior hockey again.

Yesterday the Western Hockey League approved an expansion franchise for Edmonton, which would begin play in the 2007-08 season, at its board of governors meeting.

It's no secret the City of Champions and the Edmonton Oilers, who bought the franchise, have sought a WHL team and league commissioner Ron Robison said it's just a matter of crossing the T's and dotting the I's.

"They're awarded a franchise on a conditional basis," said WHL commissioner Ron Robison, who said it was at least the required two-thirds majority.

"When we look at the success of the Calgary Hitmen and Vancouver Giants in large markets, we feel the presence of a team in Edmonton will be good and we feel the benefits of another (big) market will attract a lot of players."

Edmonton is set to join the league for the 2007-08 campaign and will join the Central Division which will also welcome back the Kootenay Ice, while Swift Current moves to the East Division, starting next season.

The Edmonton Ice expansion club played in the WHL two seasons (1995-97).

With Chilliwack joining the loop next season, some think the talent pool would become too thin with 22 teams but Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio doesn't believe that'll be the case.

"I think it'll be fine and I know there's some concern on a lot of people's part but if you watch around the league, the guys who play, and play a lot, get better," said Kisio. "It might be tough for a year or so but once those guys get playing, they'll become good hockey players."

With expansion, 10 teams will be in the Western Conference and 12 in the East and the WHL will address its revised playoff format at a meeting in June.


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