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Gary Gale says it’s because of failure to get a deal on interlocking games between CWSHL and ECSHL teams
The head of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s Senior Council believes if nothing changes over the next couple of days, there is little chance of staging a Herder Memorial Trophy provincial championship series in 2020 and at the same time, of saving the two senior teams in the central part of the province.
Gary Gale spoke to The Telegram Wednesday afternoon, just hours after revealing the failure of efforts to arrange interlocking games for the Gander Flyers and the defending Herder champion Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
The Cataracts and Flyers officially make up the Central West Senior Hockey League, but as a two-team circuit, the CWSHL’s operation is dependant on interlocking games with the East Coast Senior Hockey League. But while ECSHL clubs played against the Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor last season, there was no appetite to do so again in 2019-20, something the eastern-based tams reiterated in a conference call with Gale and officials of the CWSHL clubs Tuesday night.
“We’ve exhausted our options as a Senior Council,” said Gale. “We’ve been trying for months to broker a deal, but we’ve been basically told ‘no’ by the boys out east.
“We’ve exhausted our options as a Senior Council.— Gary Gale
“I’ve been telling everyone that we only have until Friday to get something done or we won’t be playing for a Herder this season.”
The matter is now being referred to HNL president Jack Lee and the association’s executive. Gale says his report to Lee will note if the CWSHL teams do not operate this season, a Herder championship would not be possible constitutionally.
“As it stands, the Herder is a provincial senior A trophy and we have to have a setup that satisfies (the HNL constitution) and we don’t have that right now, as the (ECSHL teams) are refusing to interlock,” Gale told the SaltWire Network’s Nick Mercer Wednesday.
There have been times in the past when the final series of a single league doubled as the Herder championship, the latest occurrence being 2015, when ownership of the venerable trophy was decided in the final of a then four-team CWSHL.
“But that was an entirely different situation,” said Gale. “At the time, they (the CWSHL clubs) were the only four senior A teams in the province, the only ones eligible to play for the Herder.
“Right now, we have eight senior teams, six in the East Coast league and the two in Central. In my opinion, it would require a constitutional change to make things different and that can only happen at the (Hockey NL) annual general meetings in June.
“But I am sending the matter to Jack and the others and if they want to deal with it and believe they can work something out, then good for them.”
According to Gale, the last proposal for an interlocking format would have seen two teams from the six-team ECSHL make one trip each to central Newfoundland and vice versa.
Gale said the expectation was that one of those teams would be the Harbour Grace Ceebee Stars, adding there had been an off-season verbal agreement that the CeeBees would play games against the CWSHL clubs. But that was before the CeeBees joined the ECSHL, which had operated as a five-team circuit in 2018-19.
“I can’t say for certain, but my understanding is that when (the CeeBees) entered the East league, there was a condition put on them that they would not interlock,” said Gale.
Gale said talks aimed at finding schedule solutions for the Cataracts and Flyers have been going on for months and have included, at times, the services of a facilitator from Hockey Canada.
But the resistance from the ECSHL teams has been unwavering, based in large part on what they see as a competitive imbalance between their teams and the better-supported Flyers and Cats, who compensate players, many of them from outside there areas.
But Gale said he sees the balance as having shifted towards the east in recent years, beginning with when out-of-province imports were prohibited.
The Herder provincial championship was established in 1935. Since then, there have been three years in which there were no Herder competitions. That was in 1942 and 1943 during the Second World War, and in 1991, the year between the folding of the province-wide Newfoundland Senior Hockey League and the establishment of a new Herder format involving two regional circuits.
— With files from Nick Mercer