Too much focus on the elite
Parents react to possible hockey realignment
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.
If a proposed minor hockey realignment goes through, these opposing Bay Arena and CeeBees minor hockey players could be teammates.