There are mixed view in Bay Roberts following word last week that the town has been awarded a new franchise to compete in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League (AESHL).
One of those who lobbied for the expansion team, Brian Hurley, said he's pleased the bid was accepted. But he has concerns about a decision last week by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador to elevate the AESHL to senior A status, thereby allowing the league champion to compete for the Herder Memorial Trophy, which is symbolic of senior hockey supremacy in the province.
Hurley said that's not what he had envisioned, and said a decision will be made over the summer about whether or not a team will be iced.
"When we put the bid in, we had no interest in playing for the Herder," Hurley, the team's manager, stated on Friday. "That's the CeeBees' thing."
During the 2011-12 season, the AESHL was classified as a senior B league, which made it ineligible to compete for the Herder. The league was reclassified after two teams - Mount Pearl and the CBN CeeBee Stars of Harbour Grace - exited to join the newly formed Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League.
That left just Bell Island and Northeast (Torbay), but the league was later bolstered by the addition of the St. John's Capitals.
If Bay Roberts moves forward with the franchise, the AESHL will grow to four teams.
"We have to decide between now and September on whether we are going to keep the team," Hurley stated, adding he was satisfied to compete at the senior B level.
But Hockey NL had other plans, and announced last week that the winners of both leagues will now go head-to-head for the right to hoist the Herder. This past season, that right was only available to the provincial league.
The last time there were two senior hockey teams in Conception Bay North was in 1997 when the CeeBees and the Shearstown Tigers competed in the now-defunct Avalon West Senior Hockey League.
"We have no interest going back to the days of the CeeBees and Tigers," said Hurley.
The possibility of a franchise in Bay Roberts was first reported in The Compass in late January after it was learned that Hurley, along with his brother Kevin Hurley, would be applying for a spot in the AESHL.
Bay Roberts is not the only alteration to the senior hockey landscape in this province as the NLSHL will be increasing to six teams with the addition of the Gander Flyers.
The Flyers will be joining the CeeBees, Corner Brook Royals, Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, Clarenville Caribous and Mount Pearl Blades.
"Fans in all communities love to see a variety of teams during a hockey season and with this expansion, less travel will be incurred with the strategic location of these new franchises," said Hockey NL president Jack Lee in a release.
In an effort to ensure a greater sense of parity amongst teams in the provincial league, HNL has implemented an entry draft level system.
However, the system has not been finalized, and Hockey NL has given the league until the fall meetings in September to complete that.
The number of imported players permitted for each team has also been altered in the provincial league.
Each team will now be allowed to bring in one less import player.
"We continue to work with the leagues to help reduce the large budgets and limiting the number of imports is a step in the right direction," said Hockey NL senior chair Gary Gale
Hockey NL is also doing away with the grandfathering of imports, meaning that a player's import status will not change regardless of how long he has been with a club.
Herder venure change
After last season's Herder final debacle, HNL has expectedly decided to revamp the process around the selection of the finals venue.
For next season, teams in the final will have the choice of selecting the venue. Again, this has not been finalized and will be at the fall meetings in September after a working session facilitated by Hockey Canada's Wayne Russell.
Gale said there are still conditions that will need to be met with regards to venues.
"Some teams have indicated to us that if the Herder is going to be in a smaller venue and it goes down to the wire, they need guarantee in terms of number of tickets they'll get ad not just any ticket, it would have to be prime seats in the building," he told Transcontinental Media.
While teams in the AESHL have been bumped up to the senior A level, it does not mean they will get the opporunity to select a venue. The Avalon East representative in the Herder final will play its home games at Mile One Centre in St. John's.