An embarrassing situation that forced a premature halt to a recent provincial senior hockey game at the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace could end up costing the host Eastlink CeeBee Stars a bundle of money.
© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
CeeBees' executive president Nick Saunders.
The Compass has learned the team could be on the hook for upwards of $15,000 to cover the costs — travel, accommodations and arena staffing — to play the remaining two periods of a Jan. 19 game between the Stars and the visiting Western Royals from Deer Lake.
Otherwise, the team will forfeit two points at a critical juncture in the season as teams jockey for positioning in the standings.
The game was called off after the ice resurfacer ran out of propane while flooding the ice after the first period. The malfunction caused the machine to dump boiling water and slush on the ice, melting a section of the surface.
The CeeBees were ahead 1-0 at the time.
Despite efforts to repair the ice, officials decided to halt play. The teams had decided to stage a shoot-out to determine a winner. However, league officials quashed the idea.
The incident made provincial headlines, and was followed several days later by the resignation of two senior administrative employees with the town, including the arena manager. It's not known if the two incidents are related.
Meanwhile, the league issued a statement on Jan. 27, stating the town was responsible paying all costs to bring both teams together on Friday, Feb. 7 to complete the game, since "it was a facility issue."
However, it's been learned the town never replied to several inquiries — including a letter — from the CeeBees, which was seeking confirmation on whether the town would cover those costs.
As such, team officials say the league issued a new directive Monday, Feb. 3, requiring that the CeeBees pay all expenses.
CeeBees’ president Nick Saunders said the team has little choice but to foot the bill.
“On Feb. 3, we received a letter from the league stating to date, they had not received any word on the confirmation of this game, and the how, when and where … and the expenditures, and they needed an answer as soon as possible. If we couldn’t, obviously, provide a facility to play it and if we couldn’t cover the expenses for Western to come over and play, then we would have to forfeit two points,” he said.
With the CeeBees fighting for home ice in the first round of the playoffs, the possibility of gaining two points on the idle Mount Pearl Blades was something the club could not give up, said Saunders.
“As of today, the town has failed to reply to numerous requests of the CeeBee Stars on the liability for the cancellation of those two periods on Jan. 19,” he added.
When asked about the letter, Harbour Grace Mayor Terry Barnes said the town had received the correspondence.
“Council is aware of the situation,” he said.
The mayor said he sent an email out to councillors on Jan. 30, but officials have been waiting to hear back from the town’s insurance agency before “moving forward.”
However, he did recognize the situation has “gone on too long.”
Meanwhile, Barnes said steps have been taken to make sure what happened on Jan. 19 does not happen again.
“We told employees to double check, and to make sure both tanks are full,” said the mayor.
Normally, the town has a little over half-a-dozen propane tanks in a cage behind the arena. When they get low, town workers will go and get them refilled.
It is no secret the CeeBees have been fighting to keep its head above water financially for the majority of the past two seasons.
Prior to the start of this year, there was a public call for fan support ahead of the season opener.
Being saddled with these extra costs could sink the franchise.
“This will basically implode everything we’ve worked to maintain all year long,” said Saunders.
However, all expenditures coming out of the CeeBees’ pocket has not been set in stone.
Harbour Grace was supposed to hear back from its insurance agency today (Feb. 4).
“We’d love to hear back from (Harbour Grace),” said Saunders.