Senior hockey getting interesting
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: firstname.lastname@example.org