A few changes are on the table for senior hockey franchises on the west coast, but Wayne Hounsell says the longevity of the league will always be a priority for him and the new executive of the West Coast Senior Hockey League no matter what unfolds this year.
Hounsell, a Stephenville native, took over the president’s role from Andy Brake of Deer Lake when the league held its election of officers for the 2018-2019 campaign.
One important topic up for discussion with league delegates is the length of the schedule for the regular season. Last year the league featured an 18-game schedule for the four teams, but switching to a shorter schedule of 12 games is something that is being thrown around by team representatives, but nothing is etched in stone and a final decision may not come until the league holds its fall meeting before the start of the season.
According to Hounsell, league representatives expressed concern about the flurry experienced at the end of the regular season when a number of games had to be made up after the west coast was hit with a number of floods and snowstorms during the early part of 2018 that threw a wrench in the schedule with finding ice-time for make-up games causing headaches.
“Somehow we need to create that little gap so we can get through the regular season to the playoffs so there were many thoughts on it,” he said, noting that a final decision won’t likely be made before all hands are sitting around the table at the fall meeting.
Parity is the other word often spoken around the table and Hounsell is committed to ensuring all four teams compete in a balance league and also recognize the challenges the Port aux Basques Mariners face with the reality they have a small population with a limited drawing capacity to recruit players. He’s willing to look at all ideas that present an avenue of fairness for everybody because fans want a competitive team representing all four west coast communities.
“The idea is to have all four teams to acknowledge that a balanced league is what will make it a successful league,” he said.
Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador has a vision of having all the senior hockey leagues on the island participate in Herder play this winter. That invitation has been extended to the West Coast Senior Hockey League, but unless there is a change of heart Hounsell believes the west setup would rather stay away from the idea this year and see if it’s a better scenario next season.
“We want it to thrive and to continue and we feel the best way to do that is to keep ourselves amateur and to keep ourselves following the way we’re going at this moment in time,” he said. “At this time we’re in a position to say that we would not like to participate, but be observers and be given the opportunity to make a new decision next year.”
While it’s clear Herder is not high on the priority list for teams right now, Hounsell knows things can change and if a team or a couple of teams come to the fall meeting expressing a desire to compete for the Herder then the executive would take a serious look at it then.
“We want to do what’s best for our league,” he said.