Junior hockey survey in Abbotsford stokes speculation; WHL says it's not market research

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A survey conducted at Abbotsford's Sevenoaks Shopping Centre on Wednesday on behalf of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) fueled social media speculation that a major junior team could be the next tenant in the 7,000-seat Abbotsford Centre.

The CHL is the umbrella organization for Canada's three major junior hockey circuits – the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

But Jeff Hubert, the WHL's director of communications, said the purpose of the survey wasn't to test Abbotsford's receptiveness to a WHL team.

"It's a CHL initiative to get a sense of fans' awareness of hockey and the CHL," he said, noting that the survey is occurring in communities across the country. "It's not market-specific to Abbotsford."

Questions on the survey gauged how many CHL games respondents attend annually; awareness of the leagues within the CHL; thoughts on fighting in hockey; types of media used to consume CHL news; preferred types of TV coverage; and likelihood of supporting a company that sponsors a CHL team.

Abbotsford Centre is heading into the 2014-15 season without a hockey tenant, after the city paid $5.5 million to buy out the last five years of the Abbotsford Heat's 10-year supply fee agreement.

When the American Hockey League club's impending departure was announced, WHL commissioner Ron Robison told The News that Abbotsford was "a market we have interest in." But he noted that the league is not open to expansion at this point and does not have any pending applications for relocation. In addition, the WHL wouldn't be able to get a franchise into Abbotsford in time for the 2014-15 season.

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