The provincial AAA bantam and peewee leagues will be generating plenty of discussion in Gander this weekend during Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s annual general meeting at the Albatross Hotel.
HNL president Jack Lee said there will “definitely” be a AAA bantam circuit next season for 13- and 14-year-olds, but he admitted there will be some chatter regarding the AAA peewee division for players 11 and 12.
The big concern is the competitiveness amongst the league’s five teams. Two St. John’s and area teams, the Tricom Thunder and St. John’s Hitmen, suffered only two and four losses respectively last season. The Tri-Pen Ice were 13-16-2, Central IcePak 8-21-2 and Western was 1-31.
“We had a bunch of parent meetings, and we spoke with the coaches,” Lee said, “and there were some concerns raised.”
Among those concerns were the cost and travel associated with the league, in addition to the competitive aspect.
“I can understand where the parents are coming from,” Lee said. “But this is a large province, and the geographic area is not easy to get around. And even though the competitive results were not great, the peewee league still does have some merit.
“We’re developing a lot of strong players. This peewee program has produced our bantam players which have won the Atlantic gold medal two of the past three years.
“I think the league can work, but no doubt it does need some tweaking,” he said.
There’s also a move to have the AAA players play for their local minor hockey associations in the year-end Easter provincial tournaments.
“My philosophy is if you’re playing AAA and you want to go back and play for your local association at Easter,” Lee said, “fill your boots. What’s wrong with that?”
As for female hockey, which has grown to include over 2,000 players, it is currently represented in Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador by a female committee, whereas minor, junior and senior all have their own councils with a handful of votes in each.
That could change at this meeting as a female council could very well be established.
The senior council meeting could see some discussion on the reestablishment of the Avalon East league.
It’s believed the Conception Bay CeeBees may be trying to get the league off the ground which would include Mount Pearl and possibly Clarenville, the reigning Herder Memorial Trophy champs. Problem is if Clarenville comes east, that would leave the Central West league with only two teams.
And it’s inconceivable to think a province this size could operate four senior-calibre leagues – Avalon East, East Coast circuit, Central West and West Coast loop.
Tonight will see six new members inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame during HNL’s awards banquet.
Ryane Clowe, Dan Cormier, Jim Heale, Kevin Morrison and Cec Thomas are going in as athletes, Bob Jackman as an athlete-builder and builder Bonnie Evans.