It was not the season that any members of this new CeeBee Stars organization wanted.
© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
CeeBees forward Andrew Fenwick carries the puck during a senior hockey game against the Northeast Eagles at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace on Jan. 16. Behind Fenwick is the CeeBees' centre Tom Snow.
Bookended by lopsided loses to the Northeast Eagles and the Southern Shore Breakers, the CeeBees finished their return to the Avalon East Senior Hockey League at the bottom of the standings in the five-team league.
Through 24 games, the team managed just three victories and finished 13 points behind the fourth place Bell Island Blues.
Despite this, there is an unbridled sense of optimism around the team as it moves into its first off-season as a member of the AESHL.
"This year was a huge year for us experience wise," said president Mark Reynolds. "We're in a great position moving forward. The league is positioned really well.
"We like where we stand."
The arduous task of talent acquisition began to turn in the team's favour as the season wound down. The CeeBees were able to get former stalwarts Matthew French, Paul Brown and Chris Petten to pull a jersey over their heads.
They joined the likes of former pro Robert Slaney, Andrew Fenwick, Kenny King and Mark Roebothan to give the CeeBees some talent.
In the last draft of the season, they added current European pro defenceman and St. John's native Sam Roberts to their roster. All indications are he will to return home next season and has pledged his services to the team.
"We're just trying to keep putting pieces in place for next season," said Reynolds.
While it wasn't the prettiest season in Harbour Grace, Reynolds credited the players for answering the bell every night and giving the fans an exciting game of hockey.
The scores weren't close at times, but the CeeBees were in plenty of games until the wheels came off in one way or another. More often than not, the final scores were lopsided but not entirely indicative of the game being played on the ice.
"They were valuable to us all season," said Reynolds. "All of the guys on the front lines and even the coaching staff, they're there game in and game out up the shore and in St. John's. There were some lopsided games and for these guys to hang in there and do what they did all year, we're really thankful to have had them."
"I have to take my hat off to the guys who came out and played," added CeeBees' bench boss Ian Moores. "It can be difficult to go to the rink when you're losing but that's part of it. We did make strides and we did get stronger as the season went on."
Any organization like the CeeBees needs a strong volunteer base to work the ticket tables and raise funds for the upcoming season. Attracting new volunteers was a problem for past CeeBees teams, but this year's version was able to get new faces mixed in with the old.
"We were able to maintain the people that we had," said Reynolds. "We were also able to grow our volunteer base and we're still looking for more.
"I didn't realize how important they were to what we were doing."
The team figures they regularly saw 150-200 fans stroll through the gates on game day, and they want to continue to build on those numbers moving forward.
Despite the club beginning its offseason prematurely, those involved are looking at the silver lining. The goal was the post season, but the team is positioned well for next season. They are sure to have some picks at the top of the draft in the fall and with whispers that the Central West Senior Hockey League may fold, there may be an opportunity to scoop up even more valuable talent.
Should that happen, there are guys like Brett Shute, Keith Delaney and Ryan Delaney who could potentially be acquired. Even a player like Clarenville's Andrew Smith, who played his junior hockey in Bay Roberts, may be an ideal fit in Harbour Grace.
There is also a high profile group graduating from the junior ranks that can help the team come October.
"I really wanted to make the playoffs, but there is some good coming out of the bad," said Reynolds.