SPORTS BEAT

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

It has been just over two months since the New­found­land Cen­tral West Hockey League kicked off its in­au­gu­ral sea­son. The Eastlink CeeBee Stars used to be a part of that league, al­beit in a dif­fer­ent form. That was un­til they were un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously re­moved from the new for­mat. The move left a void in the arena, but also the hearts of the play­ers and fans.

Satur­day nights have a dif­fer­ent feel at the S.W. Moores Memo­rial Sta­dium in Har­bour Grace th­ese days.

Gone are the large crowds, the 50/50 tick­ets and scores of vol­un­teers work­ing in var­i­ous parts of the arena.

The hockey play­ers, who ap­peared larger than life to the younger fans, are no longer putting on their gear at the far end of the rink while fans pre­pare to wel­come them to the ice.

To put it sim­ply, gone are the Eastlink CeeBee Stars and provin­cial se­nior hockey.

“It’s been a huge dif­fer­ence,” said for­mer Cee­Bees for­ward Steven Gree­ley.

For the past decade, Satur­day night at the sta­dium has been a tra­di­tion for ra­bid hockey fans.

They would fill the rink to see the likes of Keith Delaney, Terry Ryan and Dar­ren Langdon ply their trade.

Gree­ley, an Up­per Is­land Cove res­i­dent, played the bet­ter part of a decade for his home­town Cee­Bees. In that time, Satur­day be­came a part of his weekly rou­tine. “It was pre­par­ing all day for the game and then play­ing,” he said. Any time the Cee­Bees were play­ing, it was a week­end com­mit­ment for the penalty kill spe­cial­ist.

The games on Satur­day were linked with games on Sun­day af­ter­noons. That meant not be­ing free un­til Sun­day evening at the ear­li­est. “My week­ends are free now,” said Gree­ley. He still plays hockey in Har­bour Grace and Bay Roberts dur­ing the week, but his week­ends are spent with fam­ily now.

Even new sta­dium man­ager Mike Adam is see­ing a dif­fer­ence. Although he was not around when the Cee­Bees were us­ing the prime time book­ing on Satur­day nights, he has heard from oth­ers about it.

“A lot of peo­ple miss it,” he said.

Strange feel­ing

Satur­days at the rink are com­mon­place when it comes to hockey. Those in­volved will tell you there is noth­ing quite like get­ting to the sta­dium early on a Satur­day.

Gree­ley said it was strange not head­ing to the ven­er­a­ble S.W. Moores sta­dium on a Satur­day. It is some­thing he has al­ways done, ever since he was a kid.

“It goes back to mi­nor hockey,” said Gree­ley.

Back­story

It was last spring when word broke the Cee­Bees and the Mount Pearl Blades would not be a part of provin­cial se­nior hockey. The other four teams — the Clarenville Cari­bous, Gan­der Fly­ers, Grand Falls-Wind­sor Cataracts and the Cor­ner Brook Roy­als — were form­ing their own league.

At the end of the sum­mer, a glim­mer of hope re­mained that there would be se­nior hockey in Har­bour Grace this win­ter. The team ap­plied for en­try into the Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League. Alas, by late Septem­ber, the league had de­nied that ap­pli­ca­tion.

Cee­Bees of­fi­cials ap­pealed to Hockey NL and Hockey Canada as fans held their breath that some­thing would hap­pen at the eleventh hour to save hockey in Har­bour Grace.

But, it was not meant to be.

Fan’s view­point

Long­time hockey fan Ford Sparkes was a fix­ture dur­ing home games — his son Daniel was a for­ward on the team for sev­eral years.

Ford could be seen vol­un­teer­ing at one of the booths or just en­joy­ing some of the “tremen­dous hockey” that came with the provin­cial se­nior league.

“I’d look for­ward to go­ing to the game,” he said.

For him, there is other hockey on Satur­day nights, but it isn’t the same.

“It’s ter­ri­ble,” said Sparkes. “I loved the con­ver­sa­tion with fans.”

For $12, there was noth­ing like what was be­ing played in Har­bour Grace the past cou­ple of sea­sons.

“The prod­uct on the ice was the best bang for your buck,” said Sparkes.

It is not only the fans who are miss­ing the Cee­Bees. Busi­nesses around town surely miss the week­end home games two months into the cur­rent sea­son.

Miss­ing are the jammed park­ing lots and some 500 thirsty Cee­Bees fans and vis­tors from other area leav­ing the arena and head­ing for a snack or a box of adult bev­er­ages.

When the four teams in the Cen­tral West Se­nior Hockey League got things rolling for the 2014-2015 sea­son, not tak­ing part was some­thing new for Gree­ley.

“Usu­ally you’re wrap­ping up train­ing and get­ting ready for the sea­son to start,” he said.

“Now, you’re on the out­side. I miss it.”

Com­pass file photo

The de­par­ture of the Eastlink CeeBee Stars this sea­son has left a void in the sport­ing land­scape of the re­gion.

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