As long as there is a pulse for senior hockey on the west coast, Ray Broughton plans on being one of its biggest supporters no matter where the games are played.
The Howley resident was reacting to the recent developmens on the senior hockey front regarding the Western Royals — the only remaining senior hockey franchise left on the west coast of the province.
The Royals, under president Ross Coates, will compete in the new four-team Central-West Senior Hockey League this year after they and three other teams opted to withdraw from the provincial senior hockey league recently.
The Royals have called the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex home for the past two seasons.
The team’s name was changed from the Corner Brook Royals to the Western Royals once the team began playing out of Deer Lake, a small town that once provided one of the greatest rivalries in senior hockey when the Red Wings tangled with the Corner Brook Royals in the defunct West Coast Senior Hockey League.
“I think identity with a hockey franchise is very, very important,” Broughton said Thursday.
Coates is looking at moving the franchise back to Corner Brook with the help of a booster club focused on enticing the team back to the Pepsi Centre.
The booster club hopes to sell 1,000 season passes to help make the decision easier.
But Coates says the door is still open to return to Deer Lake, and the town’s recreation director Junior Pinksen has stood firm on providing the team with a deal to continue playing out of the Hodder.
Broughton believes the team should be called the Corner Brook Royals if Coates opts for a return to the city. He said he actually prefers to watch games at the Pepsi Centre because of the comfort level — even if it means another 30 minutes of travel time.
“How many more years could the Western Royals survive with low fan attendance at the Hodder?” Broughton asked.
“The fan attendance wasn’t at the Hodder like it was two or three years ago when it became the Western Royals.”
Broughton believes he has seen the good, bad and ugly of senior hockey over more than 40 years.
“The rivalry between Corner Brook and Deer Lake just isn’t there anymore,” he said.
But he thinks the writing is on the wall for senior hockey in Deer Lake if Coates moves the team back to Corner Brook.
“Unless somebody got deep pockets, I don’t see Deer Lake starting from scratch and icing a competitive team,” he said of a Red Wings return.
He hopes the new league will work, but says fan attendance has fallen because of changes made to the senior game by Hockey Canada over the last couple of years — most of which were designed to curb the fighting and give skilled players more time and space.