Uncertainty continues for Ceebee Stars
The 2012-13 version of the CeeBee Stars got together one last time on Friday, June 21 for a year-end banquet and awards night at Admiral’s Marina in Harbour Grace.
On the surface it was an upbeat affair as players, coaches, executive members and other loyal supporters continued to bask in the glow of what has been described as an extraordinary season, culminating
with a Cinderella run in the playoffs as the CeeBees captured the Herder Memorial Trophy.
Despite finishing fourth in the regular season and whispers in January and beyond that the team was on the verge of folding because of poor fan attendance and financial struggles, the team pulled off one of the greatest upsets in senior hockey history in this province by upending two powerhouse teams from Clarenville and Grand Falls - Windsor in the playoffs.
Players even agreed to accept less money in order to keep the team afloat.
With that as a backdrop, all but a few of the players were in attendance June 21 t o receive miniature replicas of the Herder Memorial Trophy, all appropriately engraved with the word “adversity.”
Among the highlights was confirmation from longtime executive member Joey George that he would be stepping away from the team, but that he planned to continue being a corporate sponsor.
George and several others were praised for their strong backing of the team, both in terms of leadership and financial support.
There are plans to host a public meeting in the near future, George explained, in hopes of establishing a new executive.
But big questions remain about the team’s status for the 2013-14 season, and whether it will once again compete in the Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League. There are even whispers the team may apply to enter the Avalon East senior league.
The team experienced great financial difficulty this past season, though officials were stressing June 21 that all the bills have now been paid.
The team will also lose some key players, including standout goalt ender Mark Yetman, whose legal battles have cast a big shadow over the team for many months.
Defenceman Doug O’Brien is indicating he won’t be returning, while highscoring forward Robert Slaney of Upper Island Cove will be playing university hockey for the next two seasons. Fiesty rearguard Donnie Gosse hinted he may have played his last season in senior hockey, while veteran Mike Dyke made no secret of the fact he would consider a trade to the Gander Flyers, a team based in his hometown.
Plans to reactivate the Mount Pearl Blades this coming season will also impact the CeeBees, since players like Jason Hedges and Grant Kenny are property of the Blades.
Things are also happening off the ice that could impact the team’s future, including a decision by Hockey NL to increase the number of allowable imports. As such, the CeeBees will see its maximum go from two to three players, plus an import goaltender.
The cost of imports is a financial burden on teams, and head coach Ian Moores, who disagrees with the decision, says it may be a price too high to pay for the CeeBees.
He said teams will be required to bring in imports in order to be competitive, but the big question is whether teams can afford it.
“It’s a step in the wrong direction,” Moores said.
Allan Cup invite
By winning the Herder, the CeeBees have also qualified to represent this province at the 2014 Allan Cup, the Canadian Men’s Senior AAA Hockey Championships, a sixteam tournament which will be played in Dundas, Ontario from April 14-29.
However, there was no hoopla at the year-end event about such an undertaking, with several key figures in the room downplaying any hopes the CeeBees will be in the mix because of the cost of such an undertaking.
When contacted later, team spokesman Peter George said there is a definite air of uncertainty surrounding the team’s future.
“It will be very tough for us to be able to operate in a league that is increasin g cost s ( by adding imports),” said George. “It’s not fully decided yet what we’re going to do.”
George said one thing is certain — if the CeeBees intends to ice a team this coming season, it will need plenty more help in the fundraising department.
“What we really need is a booster club,” he said. “It’s all about raising money.”
George said the team operated on a budget of roughly $200,000 this past season, which he believes is among the lowest in the league. The largest expense, he explained, was the $4,000 per game payroll.
At an average of just 500 fans ($12 per ticket) for the 12 regular season homes games, that’s just not viable, he said.
Meanwhile, veteran Terry Ryan called this past season “the best experience ever” in his long and much publicized athletic career.
“It was magical,” he said.
Well-known Harbour Grace businessman Joey George, a longtime executive member with the CeeBee Stars, is stepping away from the team. However, he said his companies will continue to be a corporate sponsor
Robert Slaney o f Upper Island Cove played a critical role in the success of the CeeBee Stars this past season. However, Slaney will play Atlantic University Sport hockey for the next two seasons before pursing a medical degree at Memorial University in St. John’s.
Standout defenceman Mike Dyke has played eight seasons with the CeeBee Stars, but rumours are once again flying that he may suit up for the Gander Flyers this coming season.
Keith Delaney captained the CeeBee Stars to the 2012-13 Herder Memorial Trophy championship. Delaney confirmed recently he intends to return to the team.
Ian Moores was the head coach of the 2012- 13 edition of the CeeBee Stars.