Avalon East will compete for Herder next year

Kenn Oliver
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Despite rout that was this year’s provincial final, league is committed to series for foreseeable future

When Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador mandated this year’s Herder Memorial Trophy final would return to a showdown between the province’s two senior hockey circuits, many fans and pundits were skeptical.

Most predicted a quick sweep by any team from the Central West Senior Hockey League over their Avalon East Senior Hockey League counterparts.

On Friday night at the Jack Byrne Arena, those predictions proved entirely accurate when the CWSHL champion Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts completed a sweep of the AESHL champion St. John’s Toyota Plaza Caps with a 10-1 drubbing in Game 3 of the best-of-five series.

The Cataracts outscored the Caps 23-4 en route to their third straight Herder championship.

But despite the sometimes glaring disparity on the ice throughout this year’s Herder series, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador remains committed to an East vs. West showdown again next season and for the foreseeable future.

“We know the Herder is going to work again, and it’s our view that we had a successful Herder this year and we’re looking forward to next year,” contends Gary Gale, chairman of HNL’s senior council.

“I think it’s fair to say we looked at the skill level in the Central West and (in the Avalon East) and we knew it was higher out there (in the CWSHL). I suppose, in terms of the outcome, most expected the Cataracts would win, but the Caps showed a lot of grit and played well.”

And it’s clear the AESHL is intent on sticking around in the hunt for the Herder.

“The Avalon East has a long, proud history and I think its rightful place is to compete for the Herder every year,” says league president Paddy Daly. “Our league and their league are incomparable on many levels, but to truly recognize the best team in the province, you have to include all the committed 150-plus senior players who are willing to play.

“As long as I’m involved, we’re always going to have the Avalon East involved,” he insists, adding, “and we’re going to win the Herder within five years.”

 Daly says AESHL teams need the Herder as a motivating factor when it comes to recruiting and retaining players.

“If they’re living in town, going to school in town, or have a job in an around the northeast Avalon and we can dangle the carrot at the end of the stick for Avalon East hockey players, that we will get you a competitive league and the champion gets to play for the Herder, that’s a real lure.”

Gale says given the difference in how each league operates — the CWSHL teams run on significantly larger budgets than their AESHL counterparts — HNL understands there will be growing pains in making the provincial senior hockey championship series competitive.

One of those challenges came with the decision to allow the AESHL representative to add six strengthening players to help provide a more competitive roster in the Herder final. However, that essentially also meant the Caps would have to cut six players who had been with them all season, leaving the team with some difficult decisions. In the end, they went with five pick-ups.

As well, Gale suggests the Caps learned they could have better-implemented the strengthening option.

“In hindsight, I think there were a few holes they could have plugged and probably didn’t,” he says.

“It was a great learning experience for the Caps. I think they know now where they need to get in order to be competitive with the top team out West.”

As for the CWSHL, their challenge will involve getting used to fewer import players. Gale says following a reduction of one import across the board for all four teams last year — which was done largely in an effort to bring parity to the two circuits come Herder time — a further reduction is coming this off-season.

“Teams have built it into their marketing and promotional strategies, so we’re going to take our time and it’s going to be a gradual thing, but we’ll stay on the same path,” he says.

“The focus will be bringing in local players, the players in the junior system, the ones who played in the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). We think they should have the opportunity to play in Newfoundland.”

A decision on import restrictions for the 2016-17 season will come following HNL’s annual general meeting in June.

The only guaranteed change to next year’s Herder final will be the series returning to a best-of-seven format.

“The only reason we did it this year was because of the Allan Cup playdowns,” says Gale, referring to the Cataracts’ best-of-three qualifier against New Brunswick’s Lamèque Au P'tit Mousse next weekend at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium in Grand Falls-Windsor.

“We want to get it back to four out of seven, so we’ve got to make some adjustments.”



Twitter: @telykenn

Organizations: Avalon East Senior Hockey League, Central West Senior Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: Herder, Avalon East, Central West Newfoundland June.The New Brunswick Mousse Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium Grand Falls

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Recent comments

  • the Blue Baron
    April 05, 2016 - 11:09

    Time for the West league to just use locals from their area. Half of the players on all 4 teams out there are from as their fans are so quick to call it, "Inside the overpass". If it wasn't for the st. john's boys, the league wouldn't have enough players to play. It's only a 4 team league, in which the regular season means nothing, zero. A farce. Players from "Inside the Overpass" are laughing their way to the bank every monday morning. A cheque from the team in one hand, with the appropriate taxes taken out as CRA warned them to do. In the other hand, cash $$$, which sponsors and other fans that hang around the room hoping for a beverage with their heroes after the game, give them. What? Oh no that could never happen.........as a friend of many of these players I've heard all the stories. It's no secret, yet they'll tell you it doesn't happen. Only a matter of time before the league again resembles an accordion, and the blame will be placed on HNL, the AESHL, the Queen in the east end of the Gander stadium, the Waves Hotel, and anyone else they can think of blaming it on, other than themselves for paying the ridiculous amount of money for a player to be flown in or bused out. Crazy times

  • goochy
    March 29, 2016 - 15:42

    eliminate the imports, use only local players, then we would see how many Herders are won out west.....just saying

  • Wayne Lynch
    March 28, 2016 - 12:08

    Use What on earth is Gale and his circus trying to prove. It took years to build the product we now have outside the overpass. People will not watch glorified pond hockey outside St. John's. The whole problem with the East is AHL. If that was not there they would probably be pounding the West. Why can people in and around the City and the Pearl and elsewhere get of their behinds and fund-raise. There not going to do it as long as HNL hands them the Herder carrot. This is why we are competitive out this way because of people like Stan Coffin and Pot Canning etc. HNL why is it you dislike the Cataracts so much. Is it because they show the East how to put a competitive team on the ice. Cataracts had to scratch their way from the bottom to the top. They were never given extra imports like others. Time to take off your rose colored glasses.

  • Brad
    March 28, 2016 - 10:09

    HNL has to get over the fact that the AESHL is just a competitive recreation league. They will never generate interest in fans to come out and watch a fast game of shinny. Until such time that the AHL leaves town, and St. John's brings in a couple of imports to generate some interest, it will not fly here. Remember Mt. Pearl a couple of years ago......they averaged 350 fans per game. HNL needs to realize that its ok for St. John's to lose.

    • Political Watcher
      March 28, 2016 - 14:09

      At least the Avalon East league isn't going bankrupt every other year and looking for handouts.

    • Brad
      March 28, 2016 - 14:30

      Political Watcher.....bankrupt or not, no one is coming out to watch your game. Why would they? Bottom line....we kicked your asses and you can't take it.

  • Ted Drover
    March 28, 2016 - 09:13

    An inter city "B" league and a semi-pro league will never develop true parity . The CWSHL needs money for buses , hotels etc. so we need 700-800 fans to make this work . The intercity league needs rink time , and sticks, jerseys etc. .... a quality product sells its self , and you need a quality product , to get fans in the west . We need a team that can move on to the nationals , that can do us proud :) .

  • Dexter
    March 28, 2016 - 09:04

    Well said stadium fries. Senior hockey outside of the avalon is our edition of the AHL. It's semi-pro hockey which provides entertainment to our communities. Why is HNL taking a one sided approach....

  • Stadium Fries
    March 28, 2016 - 08:06

    So HNL and the AESHL will continue to downgrade the CWSHL so that they can compete for the Herder. What about the fans in the CWSHL who have come to expect something better than the pond hockey of the AESHL. When the stadiums in the Central West league have 50-60 fans going to their games like the fans of the AESHL,because it has been downgraded by HNL,the Herder will be played for by the AESHL only, which is indeed the only intentions that HNL has on its mind. HNL- Hockey No Longer.

  • peter barry
    March 28, 2016 - 05:05

    time for gale and the rest of this circus that run hnl to step down.the herder was a joke and for dalyto say they have a rightful place is also a joke.if this circus again tries to downgrad the cwshl i hope the four teams tell gale and the rest of the crowd to take the herder and shove it.