It appears a decision to relocate the Danny Cleary Hockey School from Harbour Grace to Torbay has paid off, with three of the four sessions sold out as of last week.
Organizers of the school say the decision to leave S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium after two years was based on basic business principles.
"We looked at all factors of what we wanted to offer, and if we want to grow and expand our business, I think a move was warranted," said Corey Crocker, head of on-ice operations.
Cleary, a native of Riverhead, Harbour Grace, is a Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings, and just came off another successful season with the National Hockey League club.
With Cleary lending his name to the event, and actively taking part in the training sessions, the hockey school has been a major draw for the Conception Bay North region for the past two summers.
Crocker mentioned that there are so many good programs in Newfoundland and Labrador, including ones run by Randy Pearcey, Jack Lee and Andy Sullivan, that officials felt it was time to move base camp in order to better compete.
"We felt the move to Torbay was the right move because of the population of St. John's for parents coming in, most stay in trailers and do their back-to-school shopping," he said.
For the group, St. John's and the surrounding area is a more attractive destination for families who want to avail of instruction from a pro hockey player.
Another aspect factoring into the decision to move the school to Torbay is the little matter of the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games being held in Harbour Grace and neighbouring Carbonear.
During the games, running Aug. 18-25, the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium will be in use as the venue for ball hockey. The hockey school runs Aug. 11-20.
"The dates just didn't line up," said Crocker.
There would have also been a conflict with needing to remove the ice from the rink.
With the move, the hockey school will be coming full circle, as the inaugural year of the program was spent in Torbay, while the two following years were in Harbour Grace.
"It's never easy leaving, but this year it had to be done," said Crocker.
Along with Crocker and Cleary, Ian Moores and Mark Reynolds are also Harbour Grace natives.
Crocker said the group had "tonnes of success in Harbour Grace."
"It's a very good hockey school and having Danny involved every day is delightful for the kids," he said.
When Cleary brought his hockey school to Harbour Grace, it marked the first time the town had put the ice on the stadium during the summer months, according to Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs.
However, preparations for the 2012 Games prevented the two parties from completing a deal, said Coombs.
"Realistically, it couldn't happen. We couldn't get the ice time for them," said the mayor.
The mayor said it would have been great to get a deal worked out, but with the need to prepare the stadium for the ball hockey portion of the Games, Coombs said that it would've been "impossible" to squeeze in the hockey school.
Filling the gap
With the departure of the Danny Cleary Hockey School, there has been a void to fill for instructional hockey. But players need only wait until October when the Shoot For Excellence hockey program returns to Harbour Grace.
"We still wanted to serve the clients in the area," said program director and Clarke's Beach native Rob French.
He does not see it as filling a gap, as his program was running the same time last summer and in the fall of 2010.
"It provides another opportunity for players to get instruction," said French.
The program will be starting October, a week before the start of the minor hockey season.
"It's a chance to expand on the programs we run on the West Coast and in Labrador and bring it to the East Coast and show what we have to offer," said French.
The Shoot For Excellence program was also looking to make a stop in Harbour Grace this summer, but, like the Danny Cleary school, was thwarted by the Summer Games and its need for the facility.