Goaltender Mark Yetman played and won his first game for the West Coast senior hockey circuit’s Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts last weekend, days after he secured his unconditional release from the Avalon East league’s Bell Island Blues.
“It came to a point, losing that many games in a row, hockey wasn’t fun anymore. I needed the change,” contends Yetman, who says he knew little of the local senior leagues prior to this season, except for the West Coast league’s strength and the Conception Bay CeeBees’ dominance in the east.
Before joining the Avalon East Senior Hockey League, Yetman spoke with representatives of two clubs — Northeast and the Southern Shore. He settled on the Shore, but a week before the season was to get underway, the Breakers folded and Yetman found himself in the team’s dispersal draft where the Blues picked him up.
Nine games and a whopping 418 shots in, the union wasn’t meeting his expectations.
“One win and eight losses, I don’t think that would meet anyone’s expectations,” he stated.
“I was told Bell Island would have a pretty good team, that they would be better than they were last year and that they would be bringing some players in, which never happened.”
The split, according to Family Drug Mart Blues’ general manager David Brazil, didn’t go over well within the organization.
“We had invested in him being part of our team,” says Brazil.
“But at the end of the day, we didn’t need the distraction from a guy who didn’t want to play with us.
“It wasn’t worth keeping a goalie around who didn’t want to be there, and players didn’t want him around at the end of it.”
Yetman, a Mount Pearl native, played three years with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Halifax Mooseheads, and joined the Brock University Badgers in 2009.
His collegiate career has been on hold since last February when he was charged with three counts of sexual assault involving three female victims, along with other charges relating to the incidents. As part of his bail conditions, Yetman was sent home to Newfoundland.
His next court date is set for March 30 in St. Catharines, Ont.
Yetman says he originally sought his release from the Blues in late November, but his request was left unanswered by the organization.
Yetman says he was then told by Brazil of the Avalon East league rule that no player shall be released to play in the West Coast league unless the player could prove it was for work, school or extenuating circumstances.
An appeal was denied by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s Senior Council, which supported the Blues and ruled Yetman ineligible for release just because he wanted to join the Cats.
HNL, however, was quick to follow with a letter to both the Avalon East and West Coast leagues indicating that only teams had the right to withhold player releases.
The leagues, in other words, did not have authority to direct that releases be withheld if the player wished to play in the rival circuit.
Yetman was released the next day.
“When going through the process of appeals to HNL and all these things, and players pick up on it, it’s not a good atmosphere in the dressing room,” Brazil said.
“We have enough challenges as it is as the last-place team. After spending too much time to appease one individual or deal with certain issues relevant to him, it was better if we parted ways.”
From his perspective, Yetman says the split was amicable.
“It was nothing against anyone who is part of the Bell Island organization. What it came down to was that I wanted to play at a higher level of hockey in the West.
“I’m sure (the Blues) will be a good team next year or the year after, but right now it’s not the organization I want to be part of.”
In Grand Fall-Windsor, Yetman rejoins former St. John’s AAA Maple Leafs teammates Paul Roebothan, Wes Welcher and Andrew Brennan. Along with Yetman, the Cats also have Doug Jewer (another former major midget Leaf) tending their blue ice, giving them one of the best puck stopping tandem in either senior league.
For his part, Yetman is looking forward to the challenge for the No. 1 starter’s job.
“You get more complacent when you have no one behind you to push. I’m sure it’ll be a healthy competition.”
The second-place Cataracts host to the third-place Deer Lake Red Wings for a two-game set this weekend at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium.