Adam passes on Ceebees offer
Developments expected this week on future of senior hockey
Russ Adam has declined an offer to become the new head coach of the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars senior mens’ hockey team.
But the former American Hockey League assistant coach and professional player has said he will assist the team in a lesser role, said Peter George, an executive member with the CeeBees who also served as assistant coach last season.
“He told us he couldn’t make that kind of commitment,” George said last week. “ But he wants to bring some systems to the team, and he wants to be involved in practice.”
Adam’s decision means the team will have to continue its search to find a replacement for Ian Moores, who stepped down recently as head coach.
“ We’re confident we’ll find a good coach,” George added. “It’s not a worry, but it’s a priority.”
Adam could not be reached for comment last week, but told The Compass last month he was considering the offer.
“ I still have a passion for hockey and I enjoy coaching,” said the 50- year-old, who was a player-coach in the old Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, and served as an assistant with the former St. John’s Maple Leafs of the AHL. Adam played a short stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the early 1980s.
The team’s search for a new coach comes as uncertainty continues to swirl around senior hockey on the province’s east coast.
The Harbour Grace-based CeeBees, along with teams in Mount Pearl and Clarenville, have been attempting to establish a new threeteam league for next season. It would see the CeeBees and Mount Pearl break away from the Avalon East league, and Clarenville leaving the west coast league.
Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador refused to sanction the proposal at its annual meeting in Gander last month, but appointed a special sub-committee to examine how to administer senior hockey to the benefit of all teams and leagues.
A follow-up meeting was held in Gander June 29, with various representatives gathering to discuss the issue.
George attended the meeting, but was tight-lipped about what transpired. He expects some decisions to be announced by later this week.
“ We had a lot of great discussion. We left the meeting quite happy,” said George.
Meanwhile,George said he will not return as an assistant coach next season, but will stay on in an executive capacity.
George said he recently met with a “core group” of the team’s roster to discuss the need to “make some changes” for next season. He said there was “ buy-in” from the players.
Whe n a s k e d a b o u t those changes, George talked about the need for more flexibility in terms of player recruitment. He also suggested there needs to be a salary cap to ensure teams from the east coast can remain competitive with those on the west coast.
“ With Revenue Canada demanding that teams open their books, a salary cap could work,” said George.
No chance at Herder
The CeeBees have won seven straight Avalon East league championships, but have been crushed in the past three Herder Memorial Trophy finals against the winner of the west coast league, with a record of just two wins in 14 games.
It’s symbolic of the problems in senior hockey in this province, said Doug Moores, a longtime executive with the CeeBees. Moores has also indicated he will be ending his involvement with the CeeBees.
“ We have two sets of rules for the two leagues, and under those rules, the East league has no chance,” said Doug Moores.
In the west, said Moores, the teams are independent, there’s few restrictions on imports, there’s no player draft and the teams are free to set their own attendance prices.
He said all four teams are competitive, meaning teams can hone their skills throughout the season and attract a large and stable fan base.
In the east, he noted, only two — CeeBees and Mount Pearl — of the four teams are competitive, which disheartens fans, diminishes the calibre of play, and results in shrinking revenues. What’s more, Moores added, the Avalon East champion must play its Herder games at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, doing away with home ice advantage.
Moores said the revenue sharing agreement in the Avalon East league is also unfair, with all four teams getting an equal split at the end of the year, despite the fact the CeeBees “generated 80 per cent of the funds for the league.”
Many of the best players on the east coast have migrated to the west coast, drawn by sizable paycheques and other perks, while Bell Island and Torbay do not pay their players, Moores said.
“ If both leagues had the same business models, nobody would beat us,” Moores stated, “ because everyone wants to play with the CeeBees.”
What’s the future of senior hockey? Moores said it’s not great.
He said the pool of players is shrinking, the expense of running a team is growing, and there’s only so much money that corporate sponsors are wiling to invest. He added that fans in the Conception Bay North region have very high expectations, and won’t tolerate a mediocre team.
“Let’s just say it’s on shaky ground at the moment,” he said.