A ‘royal’ welcome back for senior hockey

Published on July 15, 2014

Senior hockey appears to be getting the “royal” treatment in its return to Corner Brook.

For the past few years there has been a gaping hole for many hockey enthusiasts in this small west coast city. No senior hockey for some has been like no clean drinking water. A thirst has been left brooding among them.

Is it a case of poor negotiations? I’ll leave who to blame — management of the hockey team or the civic centre — to your imagination, but didn’t sit well with some of the current slate of council.

The former municipal representatives took a way-in-the-back-seat approach to problems at the city arena, saying on many occasions it wasn’t their place.

There was a hurting when the Corner Brook Royals belted for Deer Lake, and became the Western Royals. The crown of a name remained, but the identity of the team was lost.

Ross Coates did what he felt he had to do to help the team survive. That’s exactly what they did out of the Hodder — survive, and barely at that.

Out of the ashes rose a “booster club.” Led by the well-respected former Grenfell finance man Dennis Waterman, it was a “we will do what it takes to get the Royals back to Corner Brook” mentality. No one really knows what was happening behind the scenes — how much of a hand did Coates play in the process or did members of council help push things along from the back channels — nor does it matter. It has happened, that’s the important thing.

The return came with a condition. Sell 1,000 season tickets.

Do you honestly believe if that goal is not reached, then all this is for naught? I don’t think so. The Royals will be in Corner Brook next year no matter how many advanced tickets are sold. I hope they do sell the 1,000.

Those involved certainly have the right connections in the area to reach out to those with deeper pockets than most. However, the die-hard fans of senior hockey are not plenty enough to flock to the gates in June or July to purchase season passes to a team they no longer recognize. Those who made the drive to Deer Lake regularly — and judging by attendance numbers at the Hodder, there was not a whole lot — should get their season tickets. They are already saving that much in gas money for a year by having the team home again.

So, what will it take to make the club now a viable tenant of the arena? This place craves a winner, heck, needs a winner. I could see it during the St. John’s IceCaps run for the Calder last season. There was a buzz even out here on the west coast.

The new league has already dwindled to four teams. It has returned to that same slew of teams weekend-in and weekend-out. It could get tiresome seeing the same clubs, especially given the game is less physical and does not have the fighting it once did. The rivalries of the old Royals and Red Wings days are gone. The league has turned more into a very skilled recreational league than what senior hockey used to be. However, it is still good hockey.

It certainly is the best we have, and best we ever will have. All the dreams of a university or Quebec Major Junior team are long gone; never to happen.

What we do have though is some of the best senior hockey in the country. The Clarenville Caribous and Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts have shown the past few years that they are among the best in the country.

The Royals have to close another gap for the fans. Now that they are home, they must put a team on the ice to not only compete with, but beat those Cataracts and Caribous.

Do that, and the crown will be rightfully place back on their heads.