East vs. West: a battle of honour against cold hard raffle cash
In the early goings of the senior hockey season, the first controversy has arisen. And it's dodgy one. Bell Island's best player, so far anyway, captain Adam Gear and head coach David Brazil were handed two-game sanctions, courtesy of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL), for the former junior Blues star's participation in a mid-October exhibition series against the west league's Clarenville Caribou's. The reason being the forward hadn't received a formal written release from his previous senior club, the west's Corner Brook Royals. Now, back in 2005, Brazil set up a deal with then Royals GM Dick Cashin to have the junior Blues serve as his affiliate, which meant getting to play a then overage Adam Gear. The only condition, Brazil says, was a guarantee that Gear would return, without question, to any future Bell Island senior team. Well, Brazil and the Wabana faithful got their senior club and immediately set their sights on bringing their junior standout home. Which is where the controversy undoubtedly began. I haven't spoken to Fitzpatrick yet, but HNL tells me he says no release was requested by Gear or Brazil. Gear says he was told by Royals coach Rob French in July that a release was not an issue. And Brazil said Fitzpatrick was convinced Gear was intent on staying in Corner Brook. At this point, who can you believe? Quite simply, all this should have been settled long before October. If anyone was serious about the release, they would have had it done not long after the expansion team was approved by HNL and the Avalon East. Which was at the end of March, by the way. Bell Island plan to appeal Gear's suspension, so you know this isn't going away yet. The exhibition game suspensions are only one side of this story, there is a seedy underbelly. When it broke, the word on the street and on the boards was that it was a tampering related suspension. Even Brazil claims Fitzpatrick accused him of tampering for simply calling to ask for Gear's release based on the gentlemen's agreement between he and Cashin three years earlier. Laughable, isn't it? Considering how much the west teams flirt with folding (and probably stressing out the president of their booster clubs) just to rape the east of its premiere players. And it's laughable how many take off every weekend to play for pay. Come on fellas. It ain't the tar sands. HNL knows what goes on when it comes to tampering and monetary enticement of players, but the truth is they have no way to prove it, no way to legitimately punish it, and no way to curtail its occurrence. It's the natural ebb and flow, so to speak, of senior hockey. But in this case, someone had to take the fall. Dave Brazil knows it. Adam Gear knows it, now. Hell, I know it. And so do a lot of other people out there who think this whole mess stinks. Bottom line; sticking to the books on the Gear and Brazil issue and delivering the suspensions, for whatever reasons, wasn't the answer here. It's up to HNL to step up for once and force the leagues to get together and sort this out once and for all. But I think we all know the likelihood of that ever happening.