Supporters of Newfoundland senior hockey are attempting to deal with what appears to be a pending collapse of the provincial league following the unexpected withdrawal of four teams.
An email obtained by The Compass dated Sunday, June 1 indicates that four teams — Western Royals, Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, Gander Flyers and the Clarenville Caribous — have pulled out of the six-team league.
The email was supposedly written by league president Neil Norcott, and was sent to more than a dozen team officials.
“As per (Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador) regulations, we don’t have enough teams to continue with our league,” Norcott wrote.
The two remaining teams include the Eastlink CeeBee Stars of Harbour Grace and the Mount Pearl Blades.
“We were shocked,” said CeeBees’ president Nick Saunders. “We had no idea this was taking place.”
The league’s annual meeting is scheduled for June 7 in Mount Pearl.
Supporters of the Harbour Grace-based club were beginning off-season preparations for the 2014-15 season, said Saunders.
The team had gauged interest from players, with many of them indicating their desire to return to the CeeBees.
“We were full steam ahead and still are,” said Saunders. “We’re still going to pursue it.”
The Compass made multiple attempts to reach Norcott, but was unsuccessful.
The motivations behind the forthcoming disbanding of the senior league are not known at this time.
It makes little sense for teams to not play hockey this season given that the Allan Cup — Canada’s national senior hockey championship — is scheduled for Clarenville in 2015.
“If this had’ve been next year and we were having this conversation, I think it would have been a little bit less of a surprise,” said Saunders.
Although, there is speculation the four teams leaving could form a league of their own, though this could not be confirmed.
There is precedent to support this. It was just over three years ago when the Western (then Corner Brook) Royals, Cataracts, Caribous, Blades and CeeBees formed the league that would become the NLSHL.
“Is it their intent to have a western league? I don’t know,” said Saunders.
The Compass contacted Caribous’ coach Ivan Hapgood this morning. Hapgood referred inquiries to general manager Derek McPhee, who was unavailable for comment.
There are a number of questions the CeeBees now have to find answers to.
The two biggest of which are why the league is dissolving and where the team will play hockey next season.
A return to the Avalon East senior league could be an option for the CeeBees, but that’s not a certainty, said Saunders.
“Is there an appetite or would they even accept us if we applied?” he asked.
Whatever the future holds for the CeeBees, it would appear it is not in the provincial senior circuit.
“We still do have every intention to ice a CeeBees team next season,” said Saunders. “That was our 100 per cent goal from the start.”