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What didn't make the paper had to go somewhere

St. John's -

Newfoundland and Labrador senior hockey is like blue cheese. Its a little mouldy, yet edible, some love it, others cant deal with its smell. And no one knows its expiry date. Before you start thinking Im a few pucks short of a warmup, let me put this clever analogy in context. At the outset, senior hockey summit facilitator Jim Hornell likened game to cheese with the intent being to smell the cheese (evaluate the game). At Saturdays meeting, a few of the 40 who showed up turned their noses up to the idea, but most, for the betterment of the game, took a big ol' whiff. Despite there being no formal agenda though it looks like one was prepared last minute, handwritten, photocopied and handed out just before the meeting started the important issues came up. But what became clear is that both leagues are currently operating in vacuums. Specifically on the issue of player movement. Its not that the east refuses to concede there is a necessity, almost, for players from the Avalon region to keep the league afloat. And they recognize players are going that way for more than just a paycheque in their pockets before driving back to the capital region. Put yourself in a players skates. Youre a 23 year-old-guy, back from a few years playing junior A or major junior, and you still want a good game of hockey. You have two choices. You can enter your name into the Avalon East draft where, undoubtedbly, you want to play with the best team. Problem is, the best team may not want or even need you. So you end up with another team, maybe a new team, maybe a perennial loser. Either way, you arent paid, you play in front of as few as 100 fans, and your chances of playing for a provincial championship are slim to none. Or you can avoid a draft and tryout for one of the four west coast teams. There, youll play competitive hockey in a league with four competitive teams who command 10 times the fan base as their east coast counterparts. And of course, they reimburse you for services rendered. The choice seems obvious. By the end of a lengthy discussion on the subject, everyone agreed there needs to be some sort of residency/transfer agreement reached. At the same time, you could tell the logistics of putting an agreement in place were intimidating. In speaking with some delegates following the meeting the ones who didnt fly out the door the second Hornell wrapped things up it was clear that if they intend to work something out in time for the associations AGM this June, it wont be well thought out and probably not worth the effort. * * * * Every team in the province but one had representation Saturday. The Clarenville Caribous organization failed to send even one person from its camp and no one knows why. Geographically speaking, other than the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, the Bous are the closest team to Gander. For that matter, the team was in GFW the night before for a game with the Cats and had to get back to Clarenville for the second game of the home-and-home. For them not to send a single person is a huge black eye for the organization. They cant give reasons for not being there, but Im willing to bet theyd have plenty of excuses. Two members of the Cataracts were in attendance, including player Brian Grouchy. The Royals Wally Fitzpatrick was there, as was Andy Brake of Deer Lake. Both their teams were in action Saturday night. Heck, even the president of HNL Gerry Evans, showed up and took part despite the fact he was obviously quite ill throughout the weekend. Even Don Johnson, former Canadian Amateur Hockey Association president, who has his fair share of health issues as of late, attended. Its unfortunate and disappointing Clarenvilles perspective wasnt at the table. Could have added some value to the discussions. * * * * It came up on Saturday, and it looked like it put the fear of God into many. But maybe it is time to bring in a commissioner for senior hockey. A single person who would work in conjunction with both leagues and make totalitarian decisions on player movement, discipline, and overall governance all in the best interest of the senior product. But that person would have to be completely unbiased and given complete control. Hornell says governance is always a challenge in a big organization. There is a cost democracy and making people feel they belong. Im not sure people are ready to have a commissioner of senior hockey. That has a potential to be a little restrictive. But people are starting to see that maybe we di beed (one), someone who can rule. It makes it easier sometimes if theres a dictatorship, and in the past, people have ruled with an iron fist. Thats how it was done. But youve got to find that person and have the faith in them and be willing to respect their decision. Delegates balked at the idea of simply restructuring the senior council because regardless of how they revamp it, votes are cast with geographic ties and team allegiances in mind. Take Kenny Williams for instance. Presently, he serves as the secretary for HNLs senior council, the Avalon Easts secretary, the general manager of the Breakers, and runs the teams rink. Thats a smelly hockey bag worth of conflicts. (And, for the record, even Williams himself admitted all this). So if senior hockey doesnt establish a commissioner, maybe we should look at limiting who is involved in the decision making process.

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  • Ken
    July 27, 2010 - 13:55

    Good post Ken... Senior hockey has a future if costs can be kept under control and someone other than the team reps make all the decisions. A Board of Governors maybe. If something isn't done soon it will go down a slippery slide as history has proven. In Central even VOCM isn\t on board and they are supposted to be community leaders. The marketing of the product leaves alot to be desired. But it's somewhere to go on a cold Saturday night.