The new executive for the provincial major midget hockey league, under league president Glen Littlejohn, announced on Friday that the team’s operations have been awarded to the BradRil Group led by Craig Simms of Corner Brook and partner Jason Oake of Deer Lake.
The decision comes after months of controversy over the future of the Western franchise. A Corner-Brook based group led by Kevin McCarthy had been running the team for a number of years, but the Town of Deer Lake submitted a bid with intentions of having the team move up the highway and was successful in its bid.
However, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s minor council rescinded the decision and gave the team back to its current owner until a closer look was taken at how things unfolded in the initial bid process.
“At this stage in the game we want to make sure that we start mending fences and we start getting Corner Brook and the Town of Deer Lake back on the same page,” Simms said Saturday morning. “We got to calm the waters and think about the kids now.”
Simms and Oake headed to the cabin Friday to discuss ideas on how they would handle moving the team forward and how they were going to approach getting everybody in western to focus on the players and their goals now that a decision has been made on who will run the team.
“It was a messy process, but it’s time to get past that now, move on and get everybody on the same page,” Oake added while the two chatted with The Star on speakerphone as the two made their way back from the cabin.
Simms and Oake became interested in running the team some eight months ago when they had heard rumblings that the current ownership group led by Kevin McCarthy and Angus Head was contemplating giving it up.
With both guys having sons ready to hit the midget ranks, they wanted to throw their hat into the rink because they felt there was a pretty good program already in place and they wanted to try and bring it to another level with true representation from the entire west coast.
“They ran a good program for a number of years and obviously with anything new we’d like to make it as good or as better as we can,” Oake said.
Simms was quick to credit the previous ownership group for a great job over the years, but he does have a few things in mind that he would like to change in an effort to make it better.
One of the things he would like to see is more exposure to scouts and more emphasis on showing the players how they can go about pursuing the university hockey route when they graduate if they want to forge ahead toward bigger goals.
How the players conduct themselves on and off the ice will be a priority for the new owners with the hopes of getting players to buy into a program where they respect everybody involved in the game and the older players on the team be good role models for the new players coming into the mix.
Simms has heard some of the stories from the past about players being exposed to initiations. He’s not a fan of such behaviour and that’s not something he wants to see under his watch.
“That really used to scare a lot of the young kids,” Simms said.
Oake believes it’s important for people to understand this isn’t about Corner Brook or Deer Lake, but all about providing players from all over western Newfoundland a chance to play in a quality program and that’s where his focus will be moving forward.
A month behind schedule because of the controversy over the decision, the new owners are going to be putting pieces of the puzzle together over the next few weeks to prepare the team for the 2017-18 season.
Putting the care and concern of potential players first is what they hope everybody keeps in mind as they move forward with building on what they believe is a strong program with potential to better.