Are the Privateers the last hope for a national midget crown?

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The St. John’s Pennecon Privateers — essentially a metro region major midget all-star club — had a great weekend at the Monctonian AAA midget tournament this weekend.

Not so for the other five teams from the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey league.

While the Privateers made it all the way to the gold medal game and settled for silver, only the Northern Huskies won a game in Moncton this past weekend. And that win came against the league rivals, the Western Kings. The Tri Pen Lions mustered a tie for a point, but otherwise it was a bleak weekend for the province’s squads.

Come next year’s Monctonian, we may not be able to celebrate any teams’ success.

The Privateers, hosts of this year’s Telus Cup national midget championship, had the privilege of picking the best of the lot from the metro region. Next season, they won’t have that luxury.

Privateers coach Wally Bray is understandably concerned about the future prospects for his St. John’s-based team, but he’s also got a legitimate concern about the future prospects for all major midget players on the island.

 “I know everyone’s hands are tied in that we want to have a solid league at home, but it’s going to be very hard for the teams that will follow here to compete on the mainland,” Bray said after losing 3-1 to the Charlottetown Islanders in the championship game.

From his standpoint, this year’s Telus Cup could be the last for provincial teams for a long, long time.

“Even with a balanced team at Atlantics, you’re not going to be able to compete. It’ll always be Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island attending the Telus Cup from here on out.”

Bray also suggests dismal showings by weaker Newfoundland and Labrador teams at the Monctonian, Gatineau or Atlantics will lead to many players being passed over by scouts.

“If you’re in the rink losing 5-0 and not getting to touch the puck or get involved in the game, how can a scout look at you,” Bray wonders.

He’s a got a point.

Our kids, with no Quebec Major Junior presence in town, are already at a disadvantage to get noticed, creating a balanced league is only going to make it harder.

But it’s also unfair to have just one team in St. John’s kicking everybody’s butt for 24 games while they wait for the real competition to begin in February and March.

Personally, I felt Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador should have stepped in this year and told the Privateers they would not be able to go to the Atlantic championships since their berth in the Telus Cup is guaranteed. That way, it gives the Central Ice Pak or Tri Pen Lions, or another of the teams, a chance to go to Atlantics and maybe earn a spot in the Telus Cup alongside Bray’s bunch.

It wouldn’t go over well with the Privateers — they insist, rightfully so, that they need the competition before nationals — but as HNL minor council chair Jack Lee has made it clear this season, it’s not all about the Privateers.

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