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Going to bat for the CeeBees

A.J. Whiffen, shown here making a save in an Avalon East game against the Northeast Eagles last year, backstopped the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars to the 2017 Herder Memorial Trophy championship. There are some within the East league who maintain Whiffen was paid to do so, which is against league bylaws.
A.J. Whiffen, shown here making a save in an Avalon East game against the Northeast Eagles last year, backstopped the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars to the 2017 Herder Memorial Trophy championship. There are some within the East league who maintain Whiffen was paid to do so, which is against league bylaws.

It’s not exactly a thorough poll of players, but the general consensus among a handful of veteran skaters in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League suggests they’re not entirely happy with the ousting of the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars from the five-team circuit.

Or more to the point, the players are not at all pleased there was no consultation between the athletes and the representatives from the league’s other four teams — St. John’s, Southern Shore, Northeast and Bell Island — when the decision was made to kick the CeeBees to the curb.

“No talks, no meetings … nothing,” said one player. “Zilch.”

The Telegram spoke with a handful of veteran Avalon East players, on the condition they nor the teams for which they play would not be identified (all are active players, and none toiled for the CeeBees last season).

Among those interviewed, none support the decision to remove Harbour Grace from the league.

In late August, the CeeBees were informed they were no longer welcomed in the Avalon East league.

It was signed by officials from the Southern Shore Breakers, Northeast Eagles, Conception Bay (Bell Island) Blues and St. John's Capitals.

The league’s executive had resigned earlier in the summer.

The representatives from the four teams maintain the CeeBees are paying players, which is against the league’s bylaws. There’s also a concern with the level of competition between the CeeBees and the other teams — last season, Harbour Grace lost only three games in 21 starts, finishing 10 points ahead of second-place Northeast.

And the four teams maintain the CeeBees weren’t on the up-and-up when it came to splitting the Herder Memorial Trophy revenues.

“From our perspective, I think it's obvious to everybody there is a difference between the CeeBees and the other four teams in the Avalon East league,” said Jack Casey of the Caps.

“There isn't a single big smoking-gun kind of reason we need to do this. There is just a long list of small reasons.

“And we feel pretty strongly about our case, that we have the right to just play locally.”

“I saw all this on Facebook when it was said and done,” said one player. “It was only after everything was decided that we got this big, long group message.

“You would think the players would have been consulted.”

The CeeBees, who came to the Avalon East league from the provincial senior hockey operation, have long been rumoured to be paying some players.

The problem is, argues a player, there’s no concrete proof.

“We all know it’s not permitted, and we all signed off on it,” he said. “If there is 100 per cent proof it’s going on out there (in Harbour Grace), no question, there’s reason to kick them out.

“But at the end of the day, there’s not enough proof it’s going on. I don’t think it’s worthy to be kicking out a team.”

The CeeBees won the league championship before going on to win the Herder. So it could be argued an Avalon East league without the CeeBees evens the playing field a bit.

“True, but we’re hockey players, are we like the challenge up going up against the CeeBees,” one said. “What do they think is going to happen? They’re going to win for the next 10 years?

“Besides, the CeeBees were good for the league, too. They were the one team — and the Southern Shore, I guess — that had a strong fan following, and it was fun playing out there (in Harbour Grace).”

The latest twist to the whole saga came this month when it came to light the CeeBees are once again back in the Avalon East league. Problem is, they're the only team remaining. Northeast, the Shore, St. John’s and Bell Island have left to form a new league.

“These are supposed leaders,” a player said of the league representatives, “but there are personal issues coming into play.

“The punishment does not fit the crime. I feel bad for the players left on the CeeBees, who might not have a game of hockey. What about those guys? They’re just tossed to the side.”

The player went on to say he’s not overly concerned if one or a couple of CeeBees are collecting compensation.

“I don’t care … whatever,” he said. “It’s not like it’s the Central-West league thing and they’re flying in from Nova Scotia. It’s not that outlandish.”

The CeeBees are exploring the possibility of finding another two or three teams to join them in a league. Mount Pearl and Paradise have expressed an interest.

 

rshort@thetelegram.com

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