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CeeBees, Mount Pearl go to Gander looking for a game

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Their bids to get back on the ice further muddies the water for Newfoundland senior hockey

Another Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador annual general meeting is in the books, and another cloud of uncertainty hovers over provincial senior hockey.
Hockey NL’s Senior Council was busy with discussions over the weekend in Gander, but there was no clear consensus if there will be any changes to the senior hockey landscape for the 2018-19 season.
The Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars, who were sidelined last season after winning the 2017 Herder Memorial Trophy, and Mount Pearl, which hasn’t iced a senior team in a few years, were represented at the weekend Hockey NL AGM, and let it be known they want to be on the ice next season.
And they want it to be on the east coast. So do the Clarenville Caribous, the reigning Herder champions. But the Caribous skate in the Central West league.
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Let’s start from the beginning.
Last season, there were three senior hockey leagues in the province — the fledgling East Coast senior circuit, Central West and West Coast leagues.
The East Coast Senior Hockey League was established last season in short order after the long-running Avalon East Senior Hockey League was dissolved. Essentially, that move came about to oust the CeeBees because it was believed C.B.N. was paying players, which is against league by-laws.
That left St. John’s, Southern Shore, Northeast and a new club out of C.B.S. in the new circuit.
St. John’s won the championship, and played Clarenville for the Herder. The Caribous were winners of the three-team Central-West operation, which also included Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor.
Out on the west coast of the province, Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Stephenville and Port aux Basques went about with their four-team outfit, a ‘B’ sanctioned league which did not compete for the Herder.
And it’s said the west is not yet prepared to play for the Herder.
So the CeeBees and Mount Pearl went to Gander this weekend looking for a game, but those teams do not wish to play in the Central-West, where weekend travel is the norm and paid players are common.
They want to play on the Avalon Peninsula. Problem is, the East Coast league doesn’t want them.
Then the idea of a nine-team senior league, involving C.B.N., Mount Pearl, St. John’s, Southern Shore, Northeast, C.B.S., Clarenville, Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor was floated, with each team playing each other in a home-and-home series.
That’s not likely to happen any time soon.
Which led to another option. What about the revival of the Avalon East league, involving C.B.N., Mount Pearl and Clarenville?
But then what happens to the Central West league, which is left with only Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor?
Well, there’s talk that maybe Twillingate could join that circuit.
At which point you’d have four sanctioned senior hockey leagues in the relatively tiny Hockey Canada Branch that is Newfoundland and Labrador.
Is it any wonder public interest in provincial senior hockey is nearing an all-time low, dating back to 1989 when the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, as we knew it, closed up shop?

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at robin.short@thetelegram.com Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

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