The Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades are expected to ask the Newfoundland and Labrador senior hockey circuit today for a one-year leave of absence from league play, The Telegram has learned.
Speculation was rampant Thursday within local hockey circles the Blades were withdrawing from the provincial senior loop, which only came into being last season.
The Blades were charter members of the league, joining the C.B.N. Eastlink CeeBee Stars, Clarenville Caribous, Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Corner Brook Royals.
This past summer, the Royals announced they were relocating from Corner Brook to Deer Lake. And now Mount Pearl is out.
League president Neil Norcott of Clarenville said Thursday evening he, too, heard the rumours surrounding the Blades, but had not received any official word from club officials.
The Blades struggled at the gate last season — coincidentally the first year of the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps — averaging just over 400 fans a game. The Blades have said they needed 800 fans for every home game to make the team a viable operation.
At a recent workout, only 10 or 12 players turned out, apparently solidifying management’s resolve to seek a year’s leave.
An official announcement on the team’s future could come today.
The loss of the Blades leaves the CeeBee Stars, Caribous, Cataracts, Royals and expansion Gander Flyers as teams fighting for the Herder Memorial Trophy.