Schooners Jr A Hockey
The Wiarton Schooners plan to sail into Wiarton next season to fill the gap left by the Rock, the Greater Metro Hockey League junior A hockey team that recently folded.
John and Beth Dyer of Pike Bay will be at the helm of the freshly minted GMHL junior A team when it takes its inaugural voyage after negotiations with the town are done.
The Dyers were trainers for the Wiarton Rock and billeted several players.
“They’re my boys,” Beth Dyer said in an interview Jan. 3.
When the Dyers learned the Rock had dissolved, they helped find new teams for players and hatched a plan to resurrect junior A hockey in Wiarton.
The owners of the Schooners, including a third person with a 10 per cent stake in the team who will handle the finances, all grew up in small towns.
“We all grew up going to Saturday night hockey games. If not, you were out skating,” Dyer said.
John Dyer played in various leagues over the years, including AA and AAA junior hockey, and for the senior Elora Rocks of the WOAA.
Beth Dyer, a part-time teacher and history buff, said the team name was chosen to reflect the rich nautical history of the area, as well as the “fast, light but strong” qualities of a schooner.
The Dyers have submitted a proposal to South Bruce Peninsula officials.
“The financial part has to be solid or the team isn’t solid,” Beth Dyer said. “We were preparing for breaking even for a couple of years.”
But the focus will be on community hockey.
“It really is a community team,” Dyer said. “We just want everyone to have fun.”
Council voted unanimously Jan. 3 to have staff draft a contract to present to the owners after the Dyers’ proposal was discussed.
“The league itself, the GMHA, is extremely keen on Wiarton,” said Mayor Janice Jackson. “They realize that this is definitely a hockey town and judging by the attendance they had for the Wiarton Rock, given the situation and the fact that they weren’t a winning team, that indicated to them that there’s an awful lot of excitement and interest in having a junior A team here in Wiarton.”
Jackson said about 100 people turned out for the Rock’s games in spite of consistent losses.
Coun. Matt Jackson said he wanted to make sure local leagues were kept top-ofmind in regard to ice time.
The mayor and councillors (Deputy-mayor Jay Kirkland was absent) agreed that the area’s existing leagues have to come first, but Mayor Jackson said, “there’s plenty of room for everybody.”
Christopher Chen, manager of financial services for the town, laid out a number of stipulations to be included in a three-year ice rental contract with the team, including a $5,000 security deposit to be refunded at the end of the contract or applied towards the last bill and $5,000 upon signing as a debit account to cover future invoices.
Chen said the town’s recreation programmer had reached out to minor hockey and the the adult league to avoid scheduling conflicts.
Home games were proposed for Saturdays, 7:30– 10:30 p.m., with alternate game times on Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons.
Sponsors might be a bit hesitant after the Rock folded early, Mayor Jackson noted in an interview after the council meeting.
“I think it’s hard on everybody when the team doesn’t complete the season,” she said. “There are people that put some money and some interest into the team and when they don’t fulfill that obligation, then it’s going to be, I think, a bit of a rough road.”
Jackson added that Wiarton is a “forgiving” and “an extremely supportive community.”
“I think when they realize that it’s a brand new team coming in with a whole new philosophy and perspective, I think our sponsors and the local businesses are going to stand behind them. I really hope that they do. But if there’s anything that we can do as a town to help that transition, we’d be happy to do that.”
Beth Dyer said the couple had already reached out to some local business owners who had supported the Rock in the past.
“Things are good,” she said.
“It’s going to help a lot that it is a local organization. It’s always best to keep it within your own community,” Mayor Jackson said. “Second time I think is going to be the charm.”
The GMHL currently fields 11 teams in the North Division and 11 teams in the South Division, according to Chen’s report. In 2016-17, two GMHL teams folded, the Bracebridge Blues and the Wiarton Rock.
John (fourth from the left) and Beth Dyer, owners of the Wiarton Schooners, a newly formed GMHL junior A team looking to startup in Wiarton this year, posed with players from the now defunct Wiarton Rock team at their home in Pike Lake, where five of the Rock members were billeted, Nov. 19.