Whichever teams battle for the Herder Memorial Trophy this year will have the final say in where their home games are played.
The Herder Memorial Championship Series is Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s prized event to showcase senior hockey in the province. The event has traditionally been held in much larger venues, such as Mile One Centre in St. John’s and the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook, because both facilities have the seating capacity to accomodate the large fan base.
Last year the two finalists, the Eastlink CeeBee Stars and the Clarenville Caribous, played their home games out of their respective barns — the CeeBee Stars hosting at the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace and the Caribous hosting home games at the Clarenville Events Centre.
It’s been an ongoing debate among teams, league executive members and the provincial hockey association on how the Herder should be played and where it should be held.
HNL senior council chairman Gary Gale said, a couple years ago, several teams expressed displeasure about using the two larger venues as opposed to playing out of their home rinks after attendance at the Herder final at the Pepsi Centre between the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Clarenville Caribous failed to draw a huge crowd.
Gale insists the league took a serious look at the concerns from parties involved.
“Ultimately, that’s what we did,” Gale said. “We gave the teams the right to choose what venue they play in.”
Attendance at Herder games has been on the downward spiral the past couple of years. Gale acknowledged that all venues have experienced a drop in the number of bums in the seats for regular season games for all of the six teams in the league this year. This is something he said all hands, from HNL officers to the general managers, are concerned about and are willing to look at ways to make things better.
“We need to get a better understanding, I suppose, of what’s going on here,” he said.
Gale has been talking to officials with the four teams remaining in the playoffs to get a sense of what they want to do if they advance to the final. It appears the only team he hasn’t heard from is the Western Royals.
From what he’s been told in his conversations with various team officials, it’s pretty well etched in stone that the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Clarenville Caribous will play in their respective home barns instead of opting for the Mile One Centre. The Mount Pearl Blades will play out of Mile One if they can knock off the Caribous in the East final.
“I’ve contacted Ross Coates, the owner of the Royals, and asked for a formal response in terms of where he plans on playing and I’m still waiting on it,” Gale said, noting a response sooner than later is preferred so plans can be put in place for the Herder showdown
He expects everything to be confirmed within the next couple of days.
While he waits for that decision to be made, the action on the ice will heat up this weekend as the East and West best-of-seven finals both get underway.
The Western Royals tangle with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in a best-of-seven West final, while the Clarenville Caribous will square off with the Mount Pearl HJ Bartlett Electric Blades in a best-of-seven East final. Both series get underway Saturday night.