Too much fo­cus on the elite

Par­ents re­act to pos­si­ble hockey re­align­ment

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Mi­nor hockey par­ents in Con­cep­tion Bay North feel only one type of player would ben­e­fit from Hockey New­found­land and Labrador’s pro­posed re­align­ment.

They con­tend it would not be the av­er­age hockey player but in­stead the elite ath­lete who benefits from any re-jig­ging of the mi­nor hockey sys­tem in this prov­ince.

“Some­where in this pic­ture, some­one wants to grow elite hockey,” said CeeBees’ mi­nor par­ent Pamela Whe­lan. “My fear is that there is a goal to elim­i­nate lev­els of All-New­found­land (Easter tour­na­ments) that are on the bot­tom.

“That elim­i­nates a lot of chil­dren from play. If they’re play­ing H,J,K,L,M,N,O or P, what dif­fer­ence is it?”

In Fe­bru­ary HNL re­leased its Strate­gic Plan­ning Doc­u­ment, which con­tains 31 pages of anal­y­sis that sug­gests re­struc­tur­ing or amal­ga­mat­ing groups would help sta­bi­lize pro­grams in spe­cific ar­eas. None of the four as­so­ci­a­tions in the Trinity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia re­gion — Bay Arena in Bay Roberts, CeeBees mi­nor in Har­bour Grace, Trinity-Pla­cen­tia mi­nor in Whit­bourne and Pla­cen­tia In­ter­town — were listed as po­ten­tial can­di­dates in the re­port.

How­ever, it’s been learned the Bay Arena and CeeBees as­so­ci­a­tions could be a part of a pos­si­ble merger as early as the start of the 2016-2017 sea­son.

This isn’t sit­ting well with some par­ents. They see it as a way to drive chil­dren out of the game in­stead of to­wards it.

“Their man­date should be more hockey for more chil­dren,” said Tracy Shute.

Shute is the par­ent of a mid­get- aged player in the CeeBees mi­nor hockey sys­tem. She said it “breaks her heart” to think about her son spend­ing his last year of mi­nor hockey be­ing some­thing other than a CeeBee.

“What hockey means to the CeeBees — and I can’t speak for the Bay Arena — is hockey for all and who­ever wants to play,” said Whe­lan. “If you want to play, we’ll find a place for you to play. My fear is that is not the fo­cus.

“I think they’re go­ing to kill what hockey means.” Strong as­so­ci­a­tions Both the Bay Arena and CeeBees mi­nor have up­wards of 300 ath­letes en­rolled in their pro­gram. Each are fi­nan­cially vi­able and self-suf­fi­cient. While Har­bour Grace may have a bit more ice time avail­able to them than the Bay Arena, each make their pro­grams work. Each as­so­ci­a­tion sent mul­ti­ple teams in each di­vi­sion to pro­vin­cial tour­na­ments this past year.

Some would ar­gue there is al­ready plenty of elite hockey be­ing played in New­found­land and Labrador. This past year, HNL added AAA hockey to the pee­wee and ban­tam lev­els.

Those leagues joined the pre­vi­ous ma­jor mid­get league. All three uses elite play­ers from the lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tions, in turn giv­ing ad­di­tional hockey to play­ers who may not have had the op­por­tu­nity be­fore.

“They could be tak­ing away com­pet­i­tive hockey for kids who aren’t elite,” said Shute. “Play­ers will get lost in the mix.” Who would they play? Any changes to the Con­cep­tion Bay North mi­nor hockey model could also re­sult in the loss of an his­toric ri­valry. The CeeBees and Rovers are heated ri­vals and when their teams meet the in­ter­est is high. Ev­ery­one wants to see who the best in the bay is.

What hockey means to the CeeBees — and I can’t speak for the Bay Arena — is hockey for all and who­ever wants to play. Pamela Whe­lan

If a su­per as­so­ci­a­tion is formed, their teams would loom large over other re­gional teams and leave them with just metro teams to play. In re­cent years, those metro teams have had lit­tle in­ter­est in ven­tur­ing past the overpass for a game of hockey.

To par­ents that spoke with The Compass, both as­so­ci­a­tions are vi­able, can work with the ice time they have and of­fer much more than hockey to the com­mu­nity at large.

“(HNL is) try­ing to fix some­thing that isn’t bro­ken,” said Shute.

“We don’t need to fix it, we need to be re­spected.”

The Compass at­tempted to con­tact ex­ec­u­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives for both the CeeBees and Rovers, but did not re­ceive a re­sponse from ei­ther group.

COMPASS FILE PHOTO

If a pro­posed mi­nor hockey re­align­ment goes through, th­ese op­pos­ing Bay Arena and CeeBees mi­nor hockey play­ers could be team­mates.

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