HAMPDEN Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador has given the green light to a new four-team senior hockey league.
The decision to approve a new four-team league — known as the Central-West Senior Hockey League — was given by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s executive, upon recommendation by senior council and its chairman Gary Gale of Hampden, at HNL’s annual general meeting in Gander over the weekend.
Four teams from the former provincial senior hockey league — the Western Royals, Gander Flyers, Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Clarenville Caribous — opted to pursue a new league after running into financial struggles with scheduling and fan attendance since a provincial league was formed two winters ago. The move to a new league leaves two franchises — the CeeBee Stars and Mount Pearl Blades — looking to ponder its options with the collapse of the province-wide experiment that has been deemed a failure by many of the movers and shakers involved in senior hockey circles in the province.
“We did have an application and it was approved as a four-team setup,” Gale confirmed Sunday of the new league that will kick off its inaugural season in October.
Gale said the CeeBees and Blades will have a presence on the senior hockey scene this winter, but there’ s some uncertainty as to how that will unfold. He said the two franchises are looking at possibly having a third team join them in a provincial league or make an application to be accepted back into the Avalon East Senior Hockey League.
He said all hands at the senior meetings, including representatives of both the new league and Avalon setup, are willing to work with Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador to find a solution that will make life more economically feasible for all teams interested in senior hockey no matter what league they represent at the end of the day.
“Everybody at the table agreed to do that,” he said of the effort to be made to accomodate the two franchises left out in the cold. “We’ll work closely with them. We’re prepared to work with them over the summer.”
Gale admits the provincial senior league concept presented a number of challenges that team officials didn’t envision when they opted for a change such as scheduling of games being far from fan friendly and the high cost of getting players back and forth on the weekends. He is happy to see a first step towards creating a West vs East scenario for the Herder playoffs like it was when there was full houses for the final.
“It was a great league and right from the start my position was always ‘well if it’s not broken, why try to fix it,” he said of the former West Coast Senior Hockey League that featured both the Royals and Red Wings from western Newfoundland.
One of the hot topics of conversation when it comes to senior hockey in the province is the impact of import players and how many a team can carry for a particular season. This never-ending issue wasn’t on the weekend agenda, but Gale said teams will have the next two weeks to decide what they would like to see happen and make their intentions known to senior council.
“After we get an idea of the numbers that teams want we’ll make a recommendation then to the officers of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador for approval,” he said.