The other four teams in the AESHL have told the league and provincial senior champion Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars to pack their hockey bags and leave.
The CeeBees — who returned to the AESHL in 2015 after operating in the now-defunct provincial senior league — say they don’t want to go and are willing to take their case all the way to Hockey Canada to do so … maybe even to court.
On Thursday, the CeeBees posted a message on their Facebook site stating the team had received word — in the form of an Aug. 28 letter — that the CBN club would no longer be welcome in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League.
That letter, signed by officials from the Southern Shore Breakers, Northeast Eagles, Conception Bay (Bell Island) Blues and St. John's Capitals, said those teams want to operate using a four-team format for the upcoming season.
“Our four organizations have decided that it is in our best interest to proceed with the four metro teams in a league that excludes the CeeBee Stars,” the letter stated. “We are advising you now of our decision to allow your organization sufficient time to find another league for the upcoming season.”
Capitals president Jack Casey was one of those who signed — Joe Maynard (Eagles), Ian Sullivan (Breakers) and Pat Rose (Blues) were the others — and on Thursday, Casey was acting as a spokesman for the group.
“Everybody signed so they could see there was no point of (the CeeBees) trying to divide and conquer,” said Casey. “The four teams in here have just decided that things work better for us to be here locally with ourselves.
“We feel strongly about that.”
CeeBees president Mark Reynolds said rumours about “some individuals wanting us out of the league” have been around since the winter, but that “never in a million years did I think that it was going to a possibility.
“We’ve been completely blindsided, to be honest with you. Officially, (there were) no reasons given, just ‘Nice knowing you. So long.’”
There have been rumours of displeasure over the CeeBees allegedly paying some players — which would be contrary to league guidelines — and of disputes over revenue from Herder Trophy provincial final games between the CeeBees and the rest of the league, but Casey said “it would be simplifying matters” to say this was the crux of their move to oust the defending league champs.
“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 Casey.
“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. “
Reynolds says the CeeBees feel just as firm in their stance.
“We never paid any players,” he said, adding that the matter of Herder revenues “was done on a contractual basis, documented in the minutes of the league.
“Everything is on paper. We paid the league treasurer our moneys in full.
“If we had a mediator come in to look at these issues, I can guarantee they would find no wrongdoing, if that is what’s being said.”
The move comes as the AESHL goes through another shakeup, what with the mass resignation of the league executive, led by president Paddy Daly. Casey says the Capitals, Eagles, Breakers and Blues are looking at a board setup, with two representatives from each team and an elected chairperson and treasurer.
“I think that individuals in the league didn’t like where the league was going … a lot of old school minds didn’t want to relinquish control,” said Reynolds when asked about the departure of the executive. “I think they were the first casualty and we were the second casualty.”
Reynolds said the CeeBees will be looking for guidance from Hockey NL and that group’s senior council before deciding how to proceed, adding “We’re a great fit for the Avalon East. We’re happy in that league. “We’re willing to go to Hockey Canada to stay … and I don’t know if a court of law would entertain our situation, but we’re going to try to find out.”
For his part, Casey says he has bears no ill-will towards rthe CeeBees, but re-iterated that the Harbour Grace-based team didn't prove to be a good fiit with the rest of the league.
"If anything, I'm envious, of them," said Casey, pointing to the CeeBees' strong attendance numbers and resulting revenue streams. "I wish we could be in that position. But we're not and, realistically, I don't know if we ever can be.
"They're just not in our league."
And for now, that last comment looks like it can be taken literally as well as figuratively.