Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars president Mark Reynolds is determined to have his club defend its Herder Memorial Trophy championship in the spring, which might be kind of difficult considering it’s now official the CeeBees won’t be playing hockey anywhere this season.
“As far as I’m concerned,” Reynolds said Sunday, “anybody who wants to play for the Herder next year should have to play us in Harbour Grace.”
"As far as I’m concerned, anybody who wants to play for the Herder next year should have to play us in Harbour Grace.”
Reynolds is holding on to that conviction despite receiving news Saturday from Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador that the Avalon East Senior Hockey League’s appeal to be granted senior A status was denied.
The CeeBees, if you recall, were ousted from the Avalon East league during the summer. And it comes down to this: the other four teams in the league — Northeast, Southern Shore, St. John’s and Conception Bay/Bell Island — were convinced Harbour Grace, which steamrolled through the league last season at 18-2-1, were paying players, which is against league bylaws.
The majority of the Avalon East executive resigned, and the four remaining teams formed a new circuit, the East Coast Senior Hockey League.
That effectively left the CeeBees as the only team in the Avalon East loop, but Harbour Grace found potential new partners in Mount Pearl and Paradise.
However, with HNL ruling the new-look AESHL a senior B operation, and thus unable to compete for the Herder, Mount Pearl and Paradise are not interested in competing.
“We would have played,” Reynolds said, “and we would have made provisions to ensure there was parity in the league. We knew we would have lost some players, but we were prepared to do whatever it took.”
Reynolds said his organization was initially informed the “new” Avalon East league would be considered senior B 10 days ago. The league appealed the decision and asked for a ruling sooner rather than later.
“The whole process was drawn out over the course of a couple of weeks, yet the East Coast league got their ‘A’ status over a cup of coffee in Gander,” he claimed.
“They (HNL) delayed it so long that other leagues held their drafts to select players. They basically screwed us.
“This all could have been avoided from the outset if HNL had said the obvious, that this whole thing is ridiculous, that people need to sit down and sort things out. HNL could have sent in a mediator, which is what I asked for a hundred times.”
Reynolds is convinced HNL had hoped the CeeBees would join the three-team Central-West Senior Hockey League, but he said his players weren’t interested travelling to Clarenville, Gander or Grand Falls-Windsor every other weekend.
“And I know the four teams in the East Coast senior league,” charged Reynolds, weren’t interested in an interlocking schedule with the Central West league, but they agreed to it so as to ensure they would be granted senior A status.
“The whole thing’s a joke.”
Each team in the East Coast league will make one trip to each of the three Central West towns this winter for interlocking play.
Reynolds isn’t sure what happens next. He’s hopeful of an Avalon East league for the 2018-19 season, one which would include Mount Pearl and Paradise. As for the players who skated with the CeeBees last year, Reynolds said he won’t deny any player his release.
“We wouldn’t stop anyone who wants a game of hockey,” he said.
The CeeBees were the only team in the Avalon East league — circa 2016-17 — to draw large crowds to their home games, and Harbour Grace did well in the Herder playoffs.
And just recently, the hockey team staged a “Chase the Ace” draw, which did very well.
“We have a bunch of charities that will benefit from us,” he said. “And we’ll hold some money for the next 12 months in preparation for next year.
“This is so disappointing for the community and the hockey fans out here. You would think cooler heads would have prevailed. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
The CeeBees won the Avalon East championship last season before going on to dispatch the Clarenville Caribous in a best-of-five series that went the limit.
That final game, a 4-3 CeeBees’ victory, will be forever remembered for the winning goal, which came when the puck slid under the side of the net.
HNL senior chairman Gary Gale was unavailable for comment Sunday night.