The 2018-19 season for senior hockey may prove to be a disappointing one for CeeBees fans.
When Hockey NL announced its plans for the season Oct. 2, including a new format for the Herder Memorial Cup, the CeeBees were not on the list of teams included in the new East Coast Senior Hockey League (ECSHL).
The team has a complicated history with senior hockey in the province.
The last season they played, 2016-17, they were champions in the Avalon East League Senior Hockey League (AESHL) and went on to defeat Clarenville for the Herder Memorial Trophy.
That victory was tainted, however, by a questionable key goal in the final game in that series. Video revealed the puck had slipped under the side of the net.
There were also complaints that season from other teams in the AESHL that the CeeBee Stars had been using paid players.
The CeeBees have explored numerous options to get back on the ice, without success.
Mark Reynolds, president of the CeeBee Stars, told The Compass last week following the Hockey NL announcement, “We’ve been working diligently, basically since last year. We’ve had ongoing conversations with many people around the senior hockey circuit, we’ve kept in touch with all the teams that were still interested in getting something going, and we started off with some pretty great meetings between us and Mount Pearl and Clarenville.”
He said when the team joined the AESHL three years ago, they were happy — local players had a chance to play the game. It also meant less long-distance travel for the team. When they were in the Central West Senior Hockey League, road games meant weekends (and hotels and travel costs) in Grand Falls-Windsor or Clarenville.
Earlier this year, the CeeBees were given the opportunity to play eight games against ECSHL teams, as long as they also played in the CWSHL this season.
“We said, you know what? We can do that for a year or two based on our financial situation, so we’ll do it,” said Reynolds.
Following meetings held in Gander later in the year, where this new arrangement was discussed, the ECSHL later agreed to play only four games. This, alongside the team’s pre-established hesitance to join this league, ultimately led to the Stars’ decision to pull from the CWSHL.
“That was a different tune,” said Reynolds. “That meant an extra trip to central west, plus three or four trips for playoffs – you’re basically spending your winter in central Newfoundland, and we don’t have the players that have the appetite to do that, or want to do that.”
Despite this, Reynolds says the team did not falter in its attempts to get some hockey back to Harbour Grace this season, working up to the eleventh hour, with emails still going out only days prior to the major announcement.
However, Reynolds feels there’s a deeper reason for the team’s shut out from the new league setup.
“After we pulled out of the central west league – which wasn’t malicious, or to hurt anybody – they basically turned their nose up at us, and for some reason, in my opinion, they’re simply overlooking what the CeeBees have brought to the table for senior hockey, and for the community, and minor hockey,” he said.
“The CeeBees belong in the senior hockey circuit in some way, shape, or form, and in the end, we didn’t even get a call. We weren’t given the opportunity to play in this new league that they put together. We’re very disappointed and upset, and we’re looking for answers.”
Reynolds added he’s heard there are teams within the ECSHL that want to see the CeeBee Stars on the ice this season, and that executives within the league share this opinion.
The trouble the Stars face, he alleges, lies with Hockey NL.
“They simply don’t want the CeeBees around. We had an independent executive operating the league, we had five teams, our league had just won the Herder, we had an opportunity to take in another team or two the following year, and they stripped all of that down, brought (the league) back to four teams, killed the interest in it, and they’ve really brought (senior hockey) backwards by 10 years in my opinion.”
Reynolds says this is still not the end of the CeeBees, saying the Stars will not give up.
“We think that we will prevail over time. Unfortunately, that could mean we don’t have a team on the ice this year. But we’re needed, and we belong in the senior hockey circuit on the Avalon,” he said. “We’re gonna keep fighting until we get there.”
The Compass reached out to Hockey NL for comment on the situation, but did not receive a response prior to deadline.
HGOE CeeBee Stars Herder Championship Wins
1960 – 4-2 win against Grand Falls Andcos
1961 – 4-0 win against Gander Flyers
1965 – Win against Corner Brook Royals
1967 – Win against Gander Flyers
2006 – 4-2 win against Deer Lake Red Wings
2008 – 4-2 win against Deer Lake Red Wings
2013 – 4-0 win against Clarenville Caribous
2017 – 3-2 win against Clarenville Caribous
Timeline of events after 2017 championship win
- CeeBee Stars return to play under Avalon East Senior Hockey League.
- CeeBee Stars win 2016-2017 Herder Memorial Championship in Clarenville.
- CeeBees informed that CBN club no longer welcome in AESHL under suspicion that Stars were paying players.
- Other four teams making up AESHL resign from league, form new league without Stars.
- CeeBees aim to reform AESHL alongside teams from Mount Pearl and Paradise.
- New league deemed as Senior B league by Hockey NL, thus unable to compete for Herder trophy.
- CeeBee Stars given opportunity to play under Central West Senior Hockey League. Stars reluctantly join.
- Stars pull from CWSHL after interlocking games agreement changes from eight games to four.
- CeeBees still with no place in any circuit, while continuing to fight for hockey in Habour Grace.