Opting out of Newfoundland Senior Hockey League makes economic sense, says Royals president

Dave Kearsey
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Corner Brook—Ross Coates felt it was time to give up on a failed experiment, but hopes to bring some flavour back to senior hockey in the province.

Coates, the president of the Western Royals, confirmed Monday that his team had indicated to Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador the franchise is no longer interested in any concept of a provincial senior hockey league this year.

Ross Coates

An email sent out Sunday by provincial league president Neil Norcott indicated that the Royals and three other teams — the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, Gander Flyers and Clarenville Caribous — have pulled out of the six-team Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League.

“We tried it for the last three years. It’s been a failed experiment,” Coates said bluntly Monday when asked why he decided to opt out.

“We thought our fan base would grow with a provincial league, but as a matter of fact it has actually shrunk.” 

That leaves the Eastlink CeeBee Stars of Harbour Grace and the Mount Pearl Blades in a bit of a pickle with the impending collapse of the provincial setup.

“A couple of teams may not be happy, but we got to do what we got to do,” said Coates. “It’s just too expensive to travel to the east coast time and time again. We got to go back to a better economic structure for us.”

Coates, who is the team’s president, said the decision to pull out of the provincial league was based on his talks with officials of the other teams who opted to pull the plug.

The plan is to have four teams operate in a west coast hockey league — similiar to the old West Coast Senior Hockey League — said Coates, adding the change will enable all teams an opportunity to cut down on travel costs, which has been the biggest challenges for the franchises.

A west league is something he believes will inject some life into a league that has watched attendance spiral at most venues, but especially in Deer Lake where the Royals called the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex home for the past two seasons.

Coates believes a better schedule will help renew interest in senior hockey.

He remembers how attendance was always great when the team played in the West Coast Senior Hockey League, and he hopes that will be the case again this year with its return.

“When we had a west league, we had hockey at home every second weekend and we built up some good rivalries with the teams we had,” he said, noting it’s hard for fans to follow a team when they spend sometimes as many as three-straight weeks on the road in the provincial setup.

He hopes the two teams currently on the outskirts — both the CeeBee Stars and Blades — find their way back to a senior hockey league on the east to set the stage for an east vs. west Herder final like it was before teams took a shot at playing in a provincial league three seasons ago.

“We found the flavour is kind of gone out of it,” he said of the provincial concept.

“You have to go back to what did work. We had a system in the west league that was working for many years. We had some good rivalries and we had some good Herder finals at the end.”

 The Western Star

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League, West Coast Senior Hockey League

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Western Star

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Recent comments

  • Jerry "Stats"" Elliott
    June 17, 2014 - 13:39

    Anyone who has followed senior hockey in the province like I have for 50 years shouldn't be surprised for the financial situation of teams. This has been ongoing for years, we already remember what happened after the 1989 season. No team can afford on a consistent long term basis by bringing players in just for the weekend, money passed around like it grows on trees. At least in the old days when an "import" played he stayed in the community and practiced with the team (remember Dorrington, Allard, Simmons, Beckman, Mickoski). Lets just hope senior hockey can survive as fans still love to attend the weekend games and bring excitement to town. All the best with the new league and I urge all senior hockey fans to attend wherever possible.

  • Jerry "Stats"" Elliott
    June 17, 2014 - 13:39

    Anyone who has followed senior hockey in the province like I have for 50 years shouldn't be surprised for the financial situation of teams. This has been ongoing for years, we already remember what happened after the 1989 season. No team can afford on a consistent long term basis by bringing players in just for the weekend, money passed around like it grows on trees. At least in the old days when an "import" played he stayed in the community and practiced with the team (remember Dorrington, Allard, Simmons, Beckman, Mickoski). Lets just hope senior hockey can survive as fans still love to attend the weekend games and bring excitement to town. All the best with the new league and I urge all senior hockey fans to attend wherever possible.

  • Marshall Art
    June 04, 2014 - 07:22

    It's alive, it's dead, it's alive again, it's dead. Wait, it's alive again. No, it's dead. Anybody else sick and tired of this ? Enough already, give NL Senior Hockey the last rites and let it go.

  • Green Day
    June 03, 2014 - 16:04

    Good riddance. All teams out west will be bankrupt, again. Very soon.

  • DC24
    June 03, 2014 - 15:08

    Nobody outside the overpass sees it this way is the problem. They think that the players are their locals, when in actual fact they where born, and live, inside the overpass. Without them, they would not have enough to pull up a punt. A lot of the players felt like they were taken hostage when drafted and having to go to play in corner brook, or grand falls. Who wants to travel out there to play every weekend to have a toothless wonder yell at you all period about how you're playing.

  • McLovin
    June 03, 2014 - 11:15

    Maybe they shouldn't have taken the Herder out of Mile One. If it aint broke, dont fix it.

  • Roy
    June 03, 2014 - 10:52

    Sure, it was the provincial league that caused all the problems for the Royals. No, it couldn't have been the mensa management that moved the team to the smaller Deer Lake arena and then decided to put the hated name of "Royals" on a Deer Lake team.

  • Years ago
    June 03, 2014 - 09:04

    Years ago, teams paid expenses. St. John's had the local senior league with a few Caps games as a bonus. We now have the Icecaps but outside the city, fans lose interest when you get 1 weekend a month. Go east/west with 4 teams in each division.

  • Poop Parsons
    June 03, 2014 - 08:46

    If all the players from inside the overpass decided not to head outside of the overpass for money, they wouldn't have enough local players to play in either of these 4 towns. Then what? Back to a glorified rec league. It won't happen, because these teams will offer guys everything including Donnini's donairs to get them out there to play hockey. Hopefully they get their own trophy to play for so the amateurs can play for the herder, finally.

  • Johnny Bulger
    June 03, 2014 - 08:00

    $250-300/game for 3rd and 4th line former AUAA, JR. hockey players is scandalous anyhow. Some of em are local jr. players out there getting $250/game. Make no wonder they're folding the tent...........again. Same ol faces, same old names, same result. Whenever this league makes the media its negative publicity. Old boys club at it again.

  • Rosco P Coletrain
    June 03, 2014 - 07:24

    $$ and Greed killed Sr. hockey yet again. When will you all learn? The caribous wanted to fold at xmas but they're hosting the allan cup this year and had no choice but to continue. Now they think that they can continue with this setup? Make sense? Travel to Mt. Pearl and CBN in your own division, or travel to CB, GF the odd weekend? 80% of The players are still gonna come from St. John's and area. And guess what, they aren't coming out over the highway for pennies. To add fuel to the fire, the East League won't be looking at the CeeBees and Mt. Pearl with open arms. They've been back and forth, folding one minute, playing the next for the last 4-5 years. Mt. pearl are having a big concert to raise money, for what? Ceebees are hoping to build a new stadium, to play in what league? Now they are both begging for a place to play. I would be that any players wanting to play in the East league will enter a draft to make the existing 4 stronger in order to compete for the Herder, which in fact is an amateur Trophy to be played by amateurs. Don't be surprised if HNL steps in this year and says no imports.

  • Steve
    June 03, 2014 - 07:04

    One thing that doesn't make sense is having four imports. As if having some unknown former third string OHLers are going to draw fans.