In this April 2, 2017 file photo, CeeBees goalie A.J. Whiffen raises his arms in celebration amid dejected members of the Central West Senior Hockey League’s Clarenville Caribous at the conclusion of Game 5 of the Herder Trophy provincial senior hockey championship Sunday in Clarenville. Just five months after winning a Herder for the Avalon East Senior Hockey League, the AESHL’s other four teams have told the CeeBees they are no longer wanted in the circuit. Meanwhile, the CWSHL is looking for a new team, but the CeeBees’ president says a hook-up with the CWSHL is far from his team’s preferred option.
©Telegram file photo/Glen Whiffen
The Central West Senior Hockey League is looking for a team.
The Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprise CeeBee Stars look to be in need of a place to play.
It might seem like a made-to-order partnership — at least to some — but the president of the CeeBees isn’t so sure.
The CeeBees were ousted from the Avalon East Senior Hockey League earlier this week, informed in a letter from the AESHL’s other four teams to Harbour Grace team president Mark Reynolds that they were no longer welcome as part of the circuit.
It all happened just five months after the CeeBees won the 2017 Herder Memorial Trophy provincial senior championship by defeating the CWSHL champion Clarenville Caribous.
The letter didn’t have much in the way of explanation. However, Jack Casey, president of the St. John’s Caps and the spokesman for the four teams looking to give the CeeBees the boot, said the Harbour Grace club wasn’t a good fit for the AESHL, and that the others preferred to operate as a circuit in and near the metro region.
Casey said while he felt there were a litany of factors at play, he admitted unconfirmed suspicion about the CeeBees paying players, contrary to AESHL rules, and questions about revenue streams from Herder games at the Danny Cleary Community Centre in Harbour Grace earlier this year figured in the reasoning behind the letter, which was signed by Casey and representatives of the league’s other teams, the Conception Bay Blues, Northeast Eagles and Southern Shore Breakers.
Reynolds denies the use of paid players and said everything regarding Herder income was handled properly as outlined in written agreements.
Nevertheless, what has happened seems to confirm, as suggested by Paddy Daly, who resigned as AESHL president earlier this summer (as did the rest of the league executive later on), that there are “trust issues” within the league. And they are centred around the CeeBeess, who rejoined the Avalon East after a stay in the Newfoundland senior league, which became defunct when the Cataracts, Caribous and Flyers wanted to shrink the geography of that circuit.
Casey described the CeeBees’ two-year return to the AESHL as “an experiment that failed” and suggested — in a separate note to Reynolds — the Harbour Grace team might be better off looking to join the CWSHL. He pointed to a story in Thursday’s Telegram and online in the Clarenville Packet, that quoted Caribous general manager Ivan Hapgood as saying his team, the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Gander Flyers had no interest in operating as a three-team league as they did in 2016-17.
“I though the timing might be fortuitous, given the story this week in The Telegram. As well, I think it’s clear to anyone who follows senior hockey that (the CeeBees) are better suited for that league,” said Casey, noting the CeeBees’ attendance numbers and revenues were much higher than those of the other AESHL teams.
“They are on a different level than us. That’s good for them, but not good for our league.”
When asked if the CeeBees have reached out to the CWSHL, or vice-versa, Reynolds said “we’ve been keeping its ear to the ground on what’s going long,” but added the dominating opinion is that they should fight to stay in the Avalon East.
“Look, our fans, our community, our stakeholders, everyone involved have expressed their interest in staying in the league we’re in,” said Reynolds, who said his team is exploring all options, beginning with appeals to Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, in an effort to stay put.
“Everybody’s happy with the calibre of hockey, the parity that we saw in this past year, the excitement that was brought to our rink … nobody has expressed interest in us looking at other avenues for a game of hockey.
“We are happy in the Avalon East league. We think it fits well with our community and what we’re trying to do.
“Two years ago, the Central West league didn’t want (the CeeBees). To say that we’re going back to a league that didn’t want us, I can’t tell you that, but it’s not on our radar.”