Se­nior hockey get­ting in­ter­est­ing

The Compass - - OPINION -

Even in the midst of a great sum­mer, it is im­pos­si­ble to escape Canada’s un­of­fi­cial na­tional sport.

With NHL free agency kick­ing of f last week­end, it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble not to turn on your tele­vi­sion and see some player join­ing a new team or Leafs gen­eral man­ager Brian Burke be­ing railed for choos­ing to march in Toronto’s Pride pa­rade rather then spend­ing ev­ery wak­ing mo­ment on the phone with free agents. Funny thing about cel­lu­lar phones, they make it pos­si­ble to be out of the of­fice and still man­age to do of­fice work.

While those are na­tional head­lines, back home Hockey New­found­land and Labrador pro­duced head­lines in this prov­ince for a cou­ple of rea­sons.

One, the Gan­der Fly­ers are re­turn­ing to se­nior hockey af­ter the Fly­ers were granted a fran­chise in the prov­ince-wide New­found­land and Labrador Se­nior Hockey League (NLSHL).

The sec­ond be­ing the addition of an Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League (AESHL) team based in Bay Roberts, al­though, signs point to the pos­si­bil­ity of that not hap­pen­ing, as first re­ported by this pa­per.

And fi­nally, the re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the AESHL to se­nior A and hav­ing both leagues com­pete for the Herder Me­mo­rial Tro­phy. Also, the de­ci­sion to have teams in the NLSHL de­ter­mine where to play the Herder fi­nal games.

For the most part, the moves by Hock­eyNL pres­i­dent Jack Lee and com­pany are on the up and up.

They shine a pos­i­tive light in what has been a dis­mal year pub­lic re­la­tions-wise for the provin­cial hockey gov­ern­ing body.

First, the orig­i­nal de­ci­sion strong-arm­ing teams into play­ing the Herder in Corner Brook and St. John’s, fol­lowed by the sus­pen­sion of Mount Pearl Ju­nior Blades head coach Brian Cran­ford (which was the right call by the way). It was not a very good half-year for Hock­eyNL.

It gained some of its re­spect back with this lat­est group of de­ci­sions.

What does this mean for hockey in this area?

Well, now there will be two se­nior teams op­er­at­ing within in 20 kilo­me­tres of each other.

While they will not be com­pet­ing in the same di­vi­sion, as each league will be its own en­tity un­til the Herder fi­nal when the “cham­pion” of each league face off.

Bay Roberts en­try is not go­ing to set off any Har­bour Grace ver­sus Bay Roberts de­bates or ig­nite the ri­valry that ex­isted when both the CeeBees and now de­funct Shearstown Tigers tan­gled in the late-90s.

What will hap­pen is in­creased hockey pres­ence in this area, a greater work­load for this re­porter and an­other out­let for sports en­thu­si­asts in Con­cep­tion Bay North.

But, where are the play­ers go­ing to come from for two se­nior teams in the bay?

Surely, one can­not ex­pect to pick play­ers off from the suc­cess­ful Bay Roberts Over-19 Recre­ational Hockey League. There may be a few who find the temp­ta­tion of play­ing some of the top hockey in the prov­ince alluring, but enough to ice a full team?

But, with that said, the fact that there is thoughts of an ex­pan­sion fran­chise in this neck of the woods is a step in the pos­i­tive di­rec­tion.

Here’s what I don’t like.

The AESHL teams are go­ing to get dum­mied in the Herder fi­nal.

As far as I know, the AESHL teams don’t have near the bud­gets, if any, of the NLSHL teams.

This means any big names will be mak­ing their homes in cen­tres like CBN, Gan­der, GFW, Clarenville, Mount Pearl and Corner Brook, and not Tor­bay, Bell Is­land or St. John’s.

Sure, come Herder time, the AESHL teams will have their pick of play­ers to add to their ros­ter, but how much of a dif­fer­ence is that re­ally go­ing to make?

It is not go­ing to make a large dif­fer­ence.

The provin­cial league will still be walk­ing away with the tro­phy. Who pushed for the move? Maybe, they should’ve stayed in se­nior B? Nicholas Mercer is a Bay Roberts res­i­dent

and re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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