Senior league raiding junior ranks

John Browne
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League president, teams take issue with overage players being recruited

Shane Boland is one of several St. John’s junior hockey league overage players recruited by Newfoundland Senior Hockey League teams for the upcoming season, Much to the chagrin of his Southern Shore Breakers junior club, Boland will suit up for the Gander Flyers this fall and winter. — Telegram file photo

The Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League president and team reps are upset with Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League’s decision to raid its players this season, and the junior circuit wants the “semi-pro” league to back off.

 Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador president Jack Lee said the senior and junior leagues met at HNL’s fall meeting in Grand Falls-Windsor and agreed that the senior teams would not touch the junior players, aside from overage (21-years) players who, after Nov. 1, have over-age status and are free agents free to play where they choose.

 “So if there’s an over-age player who wants to play senior and is capable of playing at the level, the junior team wouldn’t hold the rights anymore,” said Lee.

That’s fine and dandy, but junior league president Bern Tobin says while the Avalon East Senior Hockey League has agreed to avoid raiding any of the junior teams, the same cannot be said for the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.

NLSHL teams such as the Gander Flyers and the Mount Pearl Blades have already signed a couple of junior stars.

The league’s expansion franchise, the Flyers, signed Southern Shore junior Breakers star overager Shane Boland earlier this summer, while teammate Andrew Gale is apparently leaving the Shore to play for the Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades. The Flyers had also invited Trinity-Placentia junior Flyers forward Darrin Wilkins to camp, but he was later released.

Each junior hockey league team is permitted to have six overagers each season. These signed players can’t be taken until after Nov. 1 through the junior league, but they can be taken prior to the start of the season if they haven’t signed a junior card.

“The Avalon East Senior Hockey League honors its agreement with us,’ said Tobin. “They won’t touch our players. They call up players for five games, but never on game nights, and then leave them alone. It’s an affiliation that works well for both leagues. It gives the senior teams a look at the juniors, gives the juniors some senior experience and it doesn’t hurt the junior clubs.

“That’s called co-operation which his something we’re not getting for the semi-pro league,” added Tobin, referring to the NLSHL setup.

“I don’t understand why they can’t wait until after Nov. 1. These overagers are key players on all of the teams.”

Tobin said he’s warned NLSHL president Neil Norcott and provincial senior hockey chair Gary Gale, “that if you touch players under 20, you’ll face tampering charges. If those players participated in our league last year and they approach them, then that’s tampering.”

Tobin only sees the raiding escalating next season.

As far as this season is concerned, Breakers general manager Mike O’Brien says losing Gale and Boland is a, “huge setback.

“We were building a contender this season despite the fact we are the smallest association in the league,” said O’Brien, “and then we lose our top two players to senior.

“It seems like Hockey Newfoundland let Gander come into the semi-pro senior league without having to the list off players they had”, and the Flyers are looking to fill the roster by raiding St. John’s league junior teams.

“Then you have the Mount Pearl team complaining about the lack of fan support at the Glacier, and then they’re looking to play out of the Jack Byrne Arena.

“The Mount Pearl team in the Avalon East league is filled with local players who can’t get a game with the NLSHL Mount Pearl entry,” noted O’Brien.

O’Brien is frustrated with what is going on in terms of raiding, but he feels there’s nothing anyone will do about it.

“There are two levels that Hockey Newfoundland cares about, and that’s senior and minor. It seems junior hockey is always left out,” O’Brien said.

Tobin said he doesn’t blame the junior player who may be out of a job or attending university for taking a few bucks to play in the NLSHL.

But he does blame the NLSHL for raiding its players.

“I’m blaming the people who are getting on with underhanded crap,” he said. “Nobody has any respect for us.”

O’Brien agrees that it isn’t the players’ fault, but raiding juniors, “certainly doesn’t help our league.”

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League, Flyers, Avalon East Senior Hockey League Junior Hockey League Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.NLSHL Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Grand Falls-Windsor, Mount Pearl Avalon East

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Recent comments

  • hockey parent
    September 28, 2012 - 07:44

    Couldn't resist commenting on this statement "There are two levels that Hockey Newfoundland cares about, and that’s senior and minor. It seems junior hockey is always left out,” O’Brien said." The other level always left out is Female Hockey.

  • Mannings Hill Monster
    September 27, 2012 - 07:42

    people in torbay wanted the league down here. There is nothing fit to watch up to the jack byrne. This fella Boland won't even be in the top 20 in scoring in that league. I heard they are paying him big bucks. This league will be bottom up by next year. Another team will be gone, greed is killing the game.

  • A spade's a spade
    September 27, 2012 - 06:45

    its the players call, the wants to play jr they can. they don't want to, they don't have to. stop trying to tell people what to do. sounds like someone didn't do any homework for this year. the mt. pearl team should be in torbay, we have nothing to watch down there now. the east league is a glorified rec league with refs.

  • Hockey fan
    September 26, 2012 - 17:55

    Its the overage players that are free to jump to Sr or remain in Jr...depending on what the player wants... no raiding going on.

  • Political Watcher
    September 26, 2012 - 15:27

    Who really cares?

  • the Snowman
    September 26, 2012 - 12:03

    Raiding the teams? It is my understanding that any player wishing to play in the NL senior hockey league has to enter a draft. Did teams force these players to email the league and enter their names? Is that raiding? I'm confused. Where you are the AGM Bern? I'm told that this was addressed and agreed upon. Is this story all because Mike O'Brien didn't prepare for when his players became too old to play. Am I mistaken that when you turn 21 you can play wherever you want, and if you want to enter the league you put your name in a draft? I'm sure that was in the telegram recently.

  • Jacob's Ladder
    September 26, 2012 - 11:54

    Stick to the mun seahawks John. What you failed to do is ask the players what they wanted to do. Didn't you read saturdays paper to read about Shane and how excited he is to make the jump to Sr. hockey, and now someone is trying to keep him from it. Does that make sense to you? Talk to your co-workers John, I'm sure Ken Oliver would've told you how happy Shane was to stop playing Jr. hockey as he's grown out of it. By the sound of all the commotion around NL in the last year regarding hockey I think it is about time some of the decision makers to move on. Bern Tobin, Jack Lee.........your names are constantly in the black and white, with nothing positive written.

  • Poakey
    September 26, 2012 - 07:48

    Is it not the whole idea of allowing older aged players to play Jr to give them the opportunity to have a game of hockey? If this over aged player has the ability to move on to the "next level", would this not give an opportunity to another youth to be developed into a Jr player that can move on to the Sr leagues? I personally find it positive to see that Jr Players have the opportunity to advance and have some competitive hockey to play here on the Island, not to mention the opportunity to make a few bucks in the process. If anything this should be a positive partnership between the Jr and Senior leagues to help develop a feeder system from league to league. Minor Hockey -> Midget AAA -> Jr -> Sr. Congrats Guys on making the step to the next league within our Provincial System. Maybe coaches, gms and league presidents should be proud of their development of players to move on instead of wanting to holid back older aged players to benefit their own teams.

  • A-Ker Man
    September 26, 2012 - 07:42

    Mr. Tobin, some points you fail to see. As per hockey Canada rules, not NL Sr hockey rules, a player who turns 21 is no longer Jr. aged. It is his choice where he wishes to play. These overage hockey players are 21 years of age, men by some standards. And you feel the need to have the power to tell them where they can play hockey? Do you tell them where they can work, what courses they can take, or what career they can pursue? When do they get the opportunity to grow up? By having overagers in your league, you are taking a game of hockey away from a 17-18 year old who is finishing his minor hockey career. Do you think after a year away from jr. hockey he's going to say as a 19 year old, yeah I'll go back playing with a team who wouldn't pick me last year because they kept a guy who was too old? NO. Is the talent pool of Jr. hockey so bad that you have to have guys that are too old playing? Where does this end? Perhaps we can let guys in their first year of university go back playing for their high school hockey teams to make them stronger. Has anyone asked Boland or Gale where they wanted to play? Ask both, they'll tell you, "In the best league available." What would they gain by dominating a Jr. league as a player who, as you stated, is too old for the league. Is this going to help develop an 18 year old in his first year of jr? As for the comment about the mt. pearl players who couldn't get a game with the NLSHL entry, they just aren't good enough. Ask them they'll tell you the same. Same reason why all of the players in the Avalon East League didn't want to play for the Herder. And what does the fact that they were looking to play in Torbay have to do with Jr. players? Grasping at straws Mr. O'Brien. There are several Jr aged players without a game in this province because you have players playing that are too old. Pot calling the kettle black. Perhaps you could bring your sentiments to the head foreman in Long Harbour. There are several local businesses that lost employees that would like them back for another year because they have to find new employees who aren't as experienced.

  • Joe
    September 26, 2012 - 07:18

    Call a spade a spade, these senior teams are only using these young guys to fill their roster at the first of the season until they get someone better. Then they string them along as spares for the rest of the season. So instead of getting a season full of games, with a ton if ice time, they resort to the stands watching... hoping to get a shift. Bern... I wouldn't be talking out of both sides of your mouth. Aren't you the one trying to force HNL to put the Central West Junior Hockey League down to Junior C to keep those kids from playing for the Veitch? You're pull the same garbage the NSHL done to the AESHL. You aren't too much different from them.

  • Marcus
    September 26, 2012 - 06:59

    With the IceCaps franchise doing such a great job of giving back to the community, does anyone even watch senior or junior hockey anymore? Must be some boring watching a senior or junior game after watching an IceCaps game.

  • Ask da Players
    September 26, 2012 - 06:55

    Where do the players want to play? Shouldn't they have a stay. Obviously if they wnated to play Junior hockey they would still be there. I have no issue with this as it will make room for some other up and comers to play in the junior league. Grow up gentleman, we are sick of hearing the whining in senior hockey ranks...