The Gander Flyers of the Newfoundland & Labrador Senior Hockey League have...
Is Senior Hockey This Fragile in Newfoundland?
Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) has rendered its decision. The venues for the Herder Memorial will remain as they had previously announced – Mile One in St. John’s and the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook.
If you were to listen to the fans and management of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, the sky is falling. There will be no hockey in central Newfoundland next season, this is the end of the Cataracts organization and sponsors will drop the team like a hot potato.
Is this the end of the newly formed Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL)? Are the teams in the league so fragile that this decision will cause the whole thing to topple like a house of cards?
Poll the fans across the island and we’re pretty confident everyone will sympathize with the plight felt by the Cataracts organization, its fans and its sponsors. Who wouldn’t want to bring such a high profile hockey game into their backyard especially if you are a small town team where hockey is the big ticket?
HNL made its decision not to stick it to the Cataracts but to raise the profile of the game and to hopefully add some stability to the senior hockey scene. It wasn’t meant to stick it to the Cataracts or to any of the teams for that matter. It was a decision to support the game we all love and to showcase the great product that steps onto the ice each weekend for our entertainment.
Does the whole future of the NLSHL rest on the Cataracts hosting the Herder? Is the league that fragile?
History has shown us that Newfoundland senior hockey is vulnerable. It imploded in the 1980s when teams brought in high paid imports, ran large deficits and eventually buckled under the financial pressures.
The Cataracts have indicated their future is uncertain given HNL’s decision. Fans have called for a boycott of the Herder games and some suggested should the Cats make it to the Herder finals, the team itself should send a message and boycott the coveted championship.
What would this prove other than driving a final nail in a fragile league?
When senior hockey disappeared from the province 20 years ago, it was a sad day. No one wants to go back there and hearing the doom-and-gloom statements coming from some senior teams is disheartening.
The revival of senior hockey in the province was a Godsend to the many hockey fans. Teams such as the Corner Brook Royals, Deer Lake Red Wings and Grand Falls Cataracts brought the game back to local rinks. Volunteers resurrected the Phoenix from the ashes and nurtured their fragile teams into contenders. They worked long and hard and succeeded when many doubted what they were attempting to do.
With Deer Lake withdrawing from the old West Coast Senior Hockey League before the start of this current season, many around thought this was once again the end of another hockey era. Once again, volunteers and dedicated organizations stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun.
They gave us the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, embraced the concept that had been tossed around for years and expanded to incorporate teams from the east.
It was a good day for hockey in this province.
Still, as a hockey fan, a loyal supporter of the game we all love, one can’t help but feel vulnerable after watching the month-long drama over the Herder venues playing out in the realm of public opinion.
It showed a dirty side of the game, one that is about business, about making money and about doing everything that can be done to give individual teams an advantage over their competition financially.
The loyalty shown to their local fans and sponsors by the Cataracts organization cannot be questioned. They’ve done nothing but great things for their organization and have built a winner when many had them written off just a few short years ago.
We can question their motives that resulted in drama that unfolded in the wake of HNL’s decision. They have exposed the league, its fans and sponsors to the darker side of the game, one that should have been left in the boardrooms.
Some of the volunteers have been vilified and ridiculed. People have questioned their character and their loyalty to their respective towns and organizations when it’s been those same volunteers that fought for years to bring the game back for the fans.
There’s no questioning the reason behind all the fuss. All the fallout was for one thing and one thing only. It had nothing to do with the fans. This was a fight over money. It’s that simple.
Is senior hockey here in Newfoundland as fragile as people want us to believe? Most definitely!
HNL’s decision is a move in the right direction. It is at least an attempt to share the wealth throughout the entire league, not just the teams that make it to the Herder.
In the off-season it is important both the league and HNL work to improve communications and to promote the league. Hockey doesn’t stop because the ice is gone off the rink.
It lives on in the hearts of the players and in the dreams of the fans, something that many involved with today’s senior league have forgotten.