BAY ROBERTS, N.L. — The Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League is looking for a group willing to put in the work to keep a team active in the area where the Tri Pen Osprey have played for the last five seasons.
Earlier this spring, the league announced it was seeking expressions of interest from groups willing to operate a team in the league in the same region represented by the Osprey — the Trinity-Conception-Placentia area and the Bonavista and Burin peninsulas.
Dawn and Scott Akerman and Paul Shepard have been in charge of the Osprey for five seasons. They agreed to a two-year commitment in 2016 that included an option year, but decided after this season to retire from operating the Osprey.
The posted deadline for expressions of interest to operate a franchise was April 30. League president Glenn Littlejohn told The Compass several inquiries have been made.
“Some are just a dabble, some are a little more serious, but I’m very hopeful that we will be receiving a bid in the near future, and maybe two,” he said.
The five-team league covers the entire island of Newfoundland, and Littlejohn admitted losing a team in this area would be a significant loss.
“Certainly, if someone doesn’t come forward to bid and take over the Tri Pen franchise, that would be very unfortunate. But I’m very optimistic that will not be the case and that we will have major midget hockey in this region for the foreseeable future.”
Littlejohn would like to see a new franchise operator in place before the league annual general meeting scheduled for June 16. At the latest, the league could accept a new operator by early August. Open tryouts usually begin that month, with the first games played the weekend after Labour Day in September.
There’s a lot of responsibility entangled with becoming the operator of the major midget franchise. A $5,000 performance bond must be paid to the league, and Littlejohn said the average budget for most teams hovers between $125,000 and $150,000.
“So, it’s a major commitment, and people want to give it some thought and make sure they’re prepared to do what’s necessary to have a competitive (franchise). It takes some time.”
Littlejohn went on to thank the Akermans and Sheppard for their support of the league.
“That’s not an easy thing to do, to run a franchise like that, and I’d be remiss if I never passed along the league’s thanks and gratitude for all the work and commitment that they put in.”