BREAKING: Four teams withdraw from provincial hockey league

Nicholas Mercer
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Future uncertain for CeeBee Stars

Supporters of Newfoundland senior hockey are attempting to deal with what appears to be a pending collapse of the provincial league following the unexpected withdrawal of four teams.

CeeBees' executive president Nick Saunders.

An email obtained by The Compass dated Sunday, June 1 indicates that four teams — Western Royals, Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, Gander Flyers and the Clarenville Caribous — have pulled out of the six-team league.

The email was supposedly written by league president Neil Norcott, and was sent to more than a dozen team officials.

“As per (Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador) regulations, we don’t have enough teams to continue with our league,” Norcott wrote.

The two remaining teams include the Eastlink CeeBee Stars of Harbour Grace and the Mount Pearl Blades.

 “We were shocked,” said CeeBees’ president Nick Saunders. “We had no idea this was taking place.”

The league’s annual meeting is scheduled for June 7 in Mount Pearl.

Supporters of the Harbour Grace-based club were beginning off-season preparations for the 2014-15 season, said Saunders.

The team had gauged interest from players, with many of them indicating their desire to return to the CeeBees.

“We were full steam ahead and still are,” said Saunders. “We’re still going to pursue it.”

The Compass made multiple attempts to reach Norcott, but was unsuccessful. 

Motivations

The motivations behind the forthcoming disbanding of the senior league are not known at this time.

It makes little sense for teams to not play hockey this season given that the Allan Cup — Canada’s national senior hockey championship — is scheduled for Clarenville in 2015.

“If this had’ve been next year and we were having this conversation, I think it would have been a little bit less of a surprise,” said Saunders.

Although, there is speculation the four teams leaving could form a league of their own, though this could not be confirmed.

There is precedent to support this. It was just over three years ago when the Western (then Corner Brook) Royals, Cataracts, Caribous, Blades and CeeBees formed the league that would become the NLSHL.

“Is it their intent to have a western league? I don’t know,” said Saunders.

The Compass contacted Caribous’ coach Ivan Hapgood this morning. Hapgood referred inquiries to general manager Derek McPhee, who was unavailable for comment.

Questions

There are a number of questions the CeeBees now have to find answers to.

The two biggest of which are why the league is dissolving and where the team will play hockey next season.

A return to the Avalon East senior league could be an option for the CeeBees, but that’s not a certainty, said Saunders.

“Is there an appetite or would they even accept us if we applied?” he asked.

Whatever the future holds for the CeeBees, it would appear it is not in the provincial senior circuit.

“We still do have every intention to ice a CeeBees team next season,” said Saunders. “That was our 100 per cent goal from the start.”

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: The Compass, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Mount Pearl, Canada Corner Brook Gander Avalon East

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Recent comments

  • Willie Hunt
    June 03, 2014 - 08:12

    I think you missed the boat watcher. Why would the East league welcome the Ceebees Back? What do they offer? An hour ride to Hr. Grace to play........not in the cards. They'll expect to enter the team they have now, also not in the cards. They won't be accepted back so easy. Another team from another community already entered an application to join, they'll be looked at before this team will. They left the East league to play with the $$ hungry boys, they can stay there. Looks good on them and the Blades, they can play against each other.

  • Ken Carter
    June 02, 2014 - 23:06

    Funny how the " West" has moved all the way to Clarenville. The last time i looked West was anyplace West of Central, must be new geography or just more Me,Me,Me which is what has been happening to NL hockey since Clarenville used the monies from their Corporate spinsters to Buy the Death knell of true home town team to the " Buy any Cup we want " . Welcome to the New West Coast Clarenville Champion League. Good on Yah!

  • Go BOUS Go!!!!
    June 02, 2014 - 21:45

    George by... I think you are missing the greatest hockey around...and best value for your entertainment $$$. The boys are from all across the island and the few imports just raise the level of excitement at the rinks each week. Then you look at someone like my son...because he didn't start playing hockey until his teens, he wouldn't have the # of years in the minor system to be considered local...so a kid that lived all his life in NL would be an import. I say get out the rinks, suppose the local team (yes LOCAL) and raz on the refs and the other team but keep the abuse to visiting fans to ZERO.

  • watcher
    June 02, 2014 - 18:57

    Yes, Mr. Saunders, I think there would be an appetite for Avalon East hockey. There's not a lot to do out around the bay on winter weekends, fans would be satisfied with a competitive game of hockey on Saturday nights to provide some entertainment. The calibre of hockey might not be as high, but the intensity will probably be higher and fans can relate more to local players rather than players from outside the area or even the province. Plus the team would be a lot cheaper to operate and it will be more affordable for fans. And yes, I think the Avalon East will take CBN back because it would help the bottom line of the league. The CeeBees will likely lead the league in attendance and CeeBees fans will follow the team to away games, more bums in seats at league games means more revenuue for the league.

  • george p b
    June 02, 2014 - 15:35

    I guess I'm old fashioned...This "import" quota, draft etc smack of men being paid to play...I refuse to pay my hard earned $$$ to cheer a bunch of has been's & never were's....On the other hand, would I go cheer da byes who work in the mill, teachers, police, that kid living down the street etc?????? Local lads from both sides of the harbour...You betcha.......I would!!!! I would happily drive a bus from Lark Harbour to the arena, picking up fans along the way... Let's go back to when the Royals were our 'byes......

    • Bill
      June 03, 2014 - 13:42

      george p b... you seem to forget or be ignoront of the fact that Corner Brook and the other teams in the league have been paying players to play for a long time. There have been paid players playing in senior hockey here in the rock since as far back as the 70's from what I have been told by people in know. Teams were paying players to play even when it was 'illegal' to do so. Importing players to play here is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for years. Getting your panties tied in a bunch over it now is a little too much. The simple fact is that if you want to watch a good quality game of hockey, you can't depend on all local talent. There simply isn't enough players here to provide that entertainment. I don't mean the talent isn't here. I mean they aren't here because so many people have moved away to work elsewhere. I have been watching hockey for a long time and from what I have seen of the Avalon East League as of late you may as well call it hackey.