Un­cer­tainty con­tin­ues for Ceebee Stars

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

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.

Un­cer­tain fu­ture

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.

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

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.

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