A longtime player and coach with the CeeBee Stars said it’s disappointing that the club is drawing the fewest fans “by far” in the five-team Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League.
Assistant coach Ian Moores said fan frustration is understandable in light of the fact the team has a record of 5-10-0, and has only won a single game on home ice in Harbour Grace this season.
But he reminds fans that every game has been close, and the calibre of hockey is as good as anyone will find outside of the professional ranks.
“It’s embarrassing we're sitting in the position that we are,” Moores said of the team’s fifth place ranking in the standings. “But there’s no team that has blown us out this year.”
During a recent weekend series with the first place Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, there were plenty of empty spaces available on the bleachers, with some estimating the crowds at about 750 for the Friday and Saturday contests.
The Cats won both games by scores of 5-3, but the CeeBees were by no means outmatched, and likely deserved a better fate in the opening game.
Moores suggested senior hockey will not last much longer in Harbour Grace unless attendance improves, noting that “we only have a limited number of ways to collect money, and the gate is our biggest source of revenue.”
He reminded fans of the rich hockey history in Conception Bay North, and noted that attendance was stronger when the team competed in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League.
“This is something we never really had to face,” he noted. “Some say it’s because of the increase in ticket prices and the unknown schedule, but it’s certainly not because of the quality of hockey.”
Moores acknowledged some fans miss the heated hockey rivalry that developed between the CeeBees and the now-defunct Southern Shore Breakers. But he said the CeeBees, a team laden with talent at every position, are now “desperate” for wins and greater support from its fans could be the difference between winning and losing.
The CeeBees will host the third place Western Royals for a pair of crucial games this weekend, and a pair of losses would put the team’s chances of securing the fourth and final playoff berth in serious jeopardy.
The visiting Royals stole two games from the CeeBees earlier this season, but Moores is looking for a better result this time around.
“There’s no reason why we should lose two games at home to any team. We've got to do all we can to move up in the standings,” said Moores.
Game 1 of the weekend series gets underway Saturday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m., while Game 2 is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20.